At one point in time, PTC, which is now better known as TelOne was the giant that everyone envied, it was the dream telecommunications company that even Strive Masiyiwa once worked for before he got inspired to start his own mobile telephony business and today an employee’s vision is greater than the employer.
What has been a major cause of concern is the continuous drop in subscribers for TelOne, a company which actually has potential to turn around and grow its clientele base in this dynamic era where traditional system simply needs to dumped.
By Toneo Tonderai Rutsito
We do not need to go many years back into their PTC hey days but maybe focus on the recent sharp subscribers base decline which is screaming for attention, while their already laid infrastructure can be utilised to gain market share
In December 2011, TelOne announced that it 2 600 ADSL subscribers, less than a year later it announced a whopping leap foward to 8 600 in only 6 months, this was a sharp increase and spoke volumes of their capacity as they moved from telephone services and integrated ADSL to the subscribers .
Their ADSL has probably faced one too many mistakes forcing subscribers to completely ditch it and opening up room for competition in areas where they could have closed out competition and continued to grow strong
In the first quarter of 2009, the then TelOne’s managing director Hampton Mhlanga said that the fixed line subscriber base had fallen from ‘around 450,000’ to 350,000, blaming equipment theft and vandalism as well as poor service factors.
By December 2011, Mhlanga had a big dream and announced that he was targeting at raising subscribers’ base to 1 million from the present 350 000 once the system upgrading is complete, as part of the work will also see two core switching centres being put in place connecting the 153 exchanges on the ground.
“Looking on the brighter side, our first phase to be rolled out is the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). TelOne Broadband is expected to be completed by the end of December. It is our flagship product and it is ideal for residential and small to medium scale enterprises.
“This is quite a milestone in this ever changing world of new fast paced technologies, this is the work that will expand the subscribers’ base to one million.” said Mr Mhlanga.
Daily news reported that the initial stages involved laying an optic fibre link connecting major cities and towns. It has vastly covered Harare-Mutare route and the southern part link is almost reaching Bulawayo. A $58 million deal with Huawei International is already on the cards to further expand ADSL to the rest of Zimbabwe.
The move had positive results, In the first quarter of 2014 it was reported that TelOne, had a current total of 300,000subscribers,Total active fixed lines increased by 4.4% to reach 340,852 from 326,576 recorded in the second quarter of 2014. This increase was driven by ADSL. The fixed teledensity was 2.6% up from 2.5% recorded in June 2014.
For the first time in a long time TelOne started recording a profit,besides the fact that they still have loans their books seem to be recording a growth in the positive and they need to do a lot to make sure that they will not sleep into the doldrums.
Telone always had a subscriber base and to date they do have telephone lines which most of them today are just lying idle while subscribers continue to demand more new ways to communicate and connect and their copper cables can not be completely ditched simply because of new methods of connecting.
TelOne should have capitalised on this simple notion and captured their home market and guard it jealously, unfortunately it is not so as they have allowed competition to penetrate them left right and centre with even faster technology like fibre.
For some reason TelOne probably had the fibre backbone for long now but their skill and deployment strategy to the emerging home market through fibre to the Home FTTH, was slow and not visible again opening an opportunity to noisy and vibrant young companies which stole their old and potential subscribers.
Their ADSL is not dead, its a good product that is suffering traditional systems and packaging policies. Slowly but surely they may experience a subscriber dip if they do not open up their copper infrastructure to the market, especially in areas where most of their competitors are yet to come in.
TelOne can retain market share via ADSL in these areas by simply dumping their traditional system of low speeds caps. This is a game of numbers and they must take a stupid risk to up their entry speeds so that the their basic internet is just fast enough at a lower price.
Then Voila! Just like magic all numbers will move towards them!
If I had fast ADSL at home there is no point for me to change service providers no matter which technology comes because most users at home are basic users who need a bit of demanding services and so much basic html access.
TelOne may realise the impact of the skill a bit too late if they do not move in now to protect their market space and live to fight another day while they allow subscribers to try and test other better products out there.