When elderly Zimbabweans today look at TelOne, they see the Post and Telecommunications Company, (PTC) with 10 lives refusing to die, depending on your age, our generation sees the emergence of a telecommunication player from the grave.
It is one thing to run a state-owned enterprise in Zimbabwe, and it’s totally another to make it relevant, sustainable and a miracle to make it a profitable.
For a state-run institution like TelOne to stand and heavily compete amongst African giants like Liquid Telecom, one has to think and scratch beyond the surface to understand how the once loss-making state entity is actually thriving.
A few years back, Telone went through radicle transformations, mainly since it rebranded from then PTC, more than 20 years ago, leading to the formation of ZimPost and NetOne, bound with legacy debts, even from operating in a monopoly environment.
TelOne was supposed to be another telecommunications service provider with a “Social Mandate” to connect non-paying government customers and a few business players who still needed the copper wires running through their ceilings, alas the storyline was changed.
It is a well-known practice that most government ministries rely on landlines for communication and TelOne has had serious issues with collecting revenues from both the same government customers and the general customers before they slashed the old bills to forego the millions they were owed.
Their ADSL technology suffered a major drawback, by introducing the technology 20 years later into the Zimbabwean market, when fibre was now almost going mainstream. They would have done better had they come to the party earlier on as many Zimbabweans were still depending on slow UHF, Wimax, and expensive satellite connections.
Their fibre entry was as well very slow, after they commissioned their Harare to Beira fibre link, with competition aggressively running Fibre To The Home (FTTH), they ran their connections a little late but still scrambled for their share.
From a fixed telecommunications player to a fully converged service provider offering telephony, voice and data services.
Chipo Mtasa spruced up the image with a complete rebranding exercise, which saw TelOne getting a new look, and concurrently, announcing their entry into the fibre to the home market. Their tariffs were dubbed the cheapest as at launch date, catching all the attention, which ultimately sparked the first real data wars of the service provider in Zimbabwe.
They also broke news by announcing the cheapest satellite based internet connectivity through their VSAT technology which of course was then seen by government revising its VSAT landing fees, which were a major hindrance to the technology.
The most exciting news was the launch of their $4million data centre earlier on. This has serious potential to revolutionise our locally based hosting for cloud storage, backups while interestingly, IP-based TV on demand, this could lead to a new era in entertainment.
TelOne data centre could be of greater use if they introduce an IP-based TV, introduce local storage like a Zim based YouTube and file sharing servers for millions of Zimbabweans who are wasting bandwidth relying on international servers
The big news recently was their fibre commissioning from Bulawayo straight to Beitbridge, connecting Zimbabwe to South Africa, This if completed its set to create a new price structure and shake up the market.
This is to mention just but a few of their topical changes they have aggressively done to tilt the digital landscape in Zimbabwe.
Wrestling in a market with Liquid Telecom a continental giant is no child’s play! They have serious local and international group funding and have connected the rest of SADC through all possible undersea cables making their last mile very affordable.
One has to rethink and look at Chipo Mtasa differently. TelOne could have sunk into the oblivion low and below to date in such an environment. It’s a miracle they have a good market share and still growing it,
The Managing Director and her board deserve a pat on the back for securing funding for capitalising the enterprise through the $98 million, which has already seen some quick tangible results.
We initially doubted her tourism background to deliver, when she entered the telecoms sector but time has proved that she can still drive this forward, as results have already begun coming through, after a long fight, Today TelOne today is still connecting Zimbabweans.
Now that Chipo has saved a capsizing ship, history today has recorded, but the future is still to be written, Zimbabweans want her to sail it through the storms and hopefully maintain a positive bank balance.