What if SA’s Second National Operator (SNO) is relying on more than just technical support from shareholder Tata? What if the SNO’s telecommunications blueprint has been “borrowed” from its equity partner Tata Group of India?
For starters, the SNO’s core strategy will be to become an integrated enterprise communications player in Africa, leveraging strengths in both telecom and information technology.
It will enter the market, perhaps as early as April, by targeting large enterprises with sizable telecom spend and offer them customised end-to-end voice and data solutions.
In fact, this will be the SNO`s primary focus during the first 18 months and its biggest differentiator, against incumbent Telkom – offering companies end-to-end voice and data solutions, with a single point of contact to service all their voice and data requirements.
After all, it is the ability to service this need, which in future would decide the success of any telecom venture.
To this end, the SNO will adopt a three-fold go-to-market strategy. Firstly, it will focus on adding value by offering managed data and voice services. Secondly, with a view to meet SA`s current and future bandwidth needs, it will commit to increasing the bandwidth availability in the country. Lastly, it will offer customised telecom solutions to enable companies to optimise the utilisation of their telecoms infrastructure.
To deliver on this strategy, the SNO will have two principal business units: a Teleservices Unit (SNO-Teleservices) that offers basic and cellular services and an Enterprise Business Unit (SNO-EBU) offering managed bandwidth services (managed data and voice solutions).
Managed data and voice services, in fact, will be the SNO`s core value proposition – moving customers onto a managed bandwidth platform, thus providing the efficiencies of operations.
On the SNO`s list of end-to-end managed services will be, among others, international ATM/ MPLS services, managed voice minutes, domestic and international ATM services, MPLS services, customer premises equipment (CPE) management, managed security, disaster recovery and business continuity planning (DR & BCP) services, etc.
As for the overall sevices bouquet from the SNO, expect it to be an array of telephony, data and voice offerings.
On the telephony side, for example, services will include wholesale connectivity services (voice and data), basic telephony services, fixed-line, mobile, fixed wireless telephony, broadband and wireline ISP services.
Its voice-based value added services will include a voice portal, roaming, 3-way conferencing, Closed User Group (CUG), while data-based value added services will include Wi-Fi Internet services, international IP-VPN, broadband access services, Internet gateway services and wireless data services such as downloading of ringtones, wallpapers and games through its data portal.
Other things it may bring to market sooner rather than later could include prepaid fixed wireless phones, multimedia handsets, expanded Wi-Fi across public hotspots, new voice and data services such as on-demand multimedia and interactive applications like news, cricket, astrology, etc.
In fact, we may see Vodacom`s BlackBerry being challenged by Ego, a nifty Bluetooth-enabled pocket PC that comes with an inbuilt camera and a video recorder that allows video streaming. This handset also allows all office applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.
The SNO will also be very bullish about its basic wireless services and lay greater emphasis on limited mobility WLL (wireless local loop) in all the circles where it intends to launch operations.
The basic idea will be for the SNO to cater to the mass market with wireline, cellular, fixed wireless terminal and broadband services and to tap the enterprise space by offering end-to-end managed voice solutions and a combination of competitive international long distance, managed infrastructure and ISP services.
Then again, pricing of its services is another area where the company is likely to be aggressive. The key for the SNO will be to offer multiple flexi tariff plans for all segments of the market, i.e. right from low-end users to mid-level users to high-end users of its WLL service. Customers could also expect bundling of various value-added services within the various WLL tariffs being offered to the end customers.
The future of telecoms in South Africa looks promising indeed, but the BIG question remains… Will the SNO take its cue from strategic equity partner Tata/VNSL?
When senior SNO officials tell a journalist to “look at Tata’s strategy in India and you’ll know what we can do”… perhaps the SNO will. But then again, there is a BIG difference between “can do” and “will do”!