Telecom Namibia

Connecting Namibia

Namibia’s telecommunications revolution continues as Telecom Namibia increases its business and profitability. Communications is the cement that will knit the country’s industry sectors together and connect them to global markets.





The pace at which Namibia emerges from its recent reclassification by the World Bank as an upper-middle income country to attain a ‘developed nation’ status by 2030 hinges, to some extent, on a dependable, modern and fit-for-purpose communications system.

Fortunately this is one field in which Namibia has taken the initiative. Telecom Namibia, the largest ICT (information and communications technology) provider in the country, has proved itself a proactive player since its foundation in 1992, establishing an integrated voice, data and text network throughout the country. The Windhoek-headquartered parastatalnow serves more than 145,360 customers in a country of some 1.8 million people, and has a well-educated workforce that is over 1,100 strong.

Last year we reported on Telecom Namibia’s programme to improve connection with the rest of the world by installing fibre optic links into the neighbouring countries. In February 2011, Namibia's link to the WACS undersea telecoms fibre optic cable laid along the West African coast finally landed, which will allow for high bandwidth connectivity for the country and its neighbours when commercially commissioned during the first quarter of 2012. “The 14,900 kilometre West African Cable System (WACS) will provide direct connectivity between Namibia, West Africa, Portugal and the United Kingdom,” said Telecom Namibia’s managing director Frans Ndoroma at the connection ceremony.

The cable enters the country at Swakopmund beach some 370 kilometres west of Windhoek and was developed by Telecom Namibia and other telecommunications investors in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks at a cost of $600 million. “The cable will provide an internet speed of at least 5.12 terabits,” Ndoroma explained. The cable will be extended to Botswana and the practical result will undoubtedly be to bring down prices for internet and broadband users.

The importance of a world class communications structure for business development needs no explaining. International mining companies like Areva, which expects to produce 3,000 tonnes of uranium a year from its Trekkopje mine, operate in a global environment and need to be in 24-hour communication with operations around the world. Even more pressing are the needs of Namibia’s growing tourismindustry. Tourism now accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all employment and contributes N$7.2 billion ($1.1billion) to GDP as around one million visitors are attracted to the country’s scenery and game parks. To support this, the hotels and travel agencies need to be able to connect to booking sites in the UK, Germany and South Africa—and of course, visitors these days expect broadband access and mobile connectivity wherever they are.

In May 2011, Telecom Namibia deployed a SkyEdge II Broadband Satellite Network to serve hundreds of locations throughout Namibia.In addition to providing network connectivity for businesses and residential customers, Telecom Namibia will provide telephony and broadband internet services to remote communities across the country.

This is a multi-service platform capable of delivering high-quality voice, broadband data and video services for different environments including large companies, rural networks, cellular backhaul and government network applications, explained Oiva Angula, senior manager of Corporate Communications and Public Relations. “Telecom Namibia is now uniquely positioned in the market, combining its terrestrial and satellite capabilities with its extensive national coverage of a 100 per cent digital network, including IP/MPLS (internet protocol/multiprotocol label switching), CDMA (code division multiple access), WiMAX (worldwide interoperability for microwave access), ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line), leased lines and ethernet.”

Telecom Namibia works in a uniquely challenging environment. A population of around two million is spread across 824,000 square kilometres and local access is a problem, particularly in the north. Nevertheless, Telecom Namibia had a good year in 2010, recording a three per cent increase in its total revenue from N$1.13 billion for the financial year ending in September 2009 to N$1.16 billion for the year ending 30 September 2010. The growth in demand of broadband product and service offerings as well as cross border connectivity contributed significantly to the increase in revenue.

In a year that saw the global recession finally start to hit businessesaround the world, Telecom Namibia not only managed a modest increase in turnover but achieved a 77 per cent improvement in operating profit, from N$58.5 million to N$103.7 million ($15.3 million).“These impressive results were achieved amidst the ongoing transformation exercise within Telecom Namibia,” said Angula. “We have been successful in growing our NGN technology and service portfolios and providing broadband services to business and individual users across the whole of Namibia.”

This is a company that has embraced the principle that innovation beats playing catch-up: it is taking an independent stance tailor-made to the needs of the Namibian population and business community. “In terms of strategy, broadband services play a highly significant role in delivering to the customer a ‘one stop’ solution to a variety of needs spanning voice, data, video and mobility—all delivered on a single platform,” Angula stressed. “This offers customers unprecedented conveniences and flexibility, while such a single network will effect significant cost savings for them.”

Accordingly, R&D investment will continue to be a top priority. February this year saw the launch of a Telecom Namibia-funded Centre of Excellence at the University of Namibia. “Our vision as Telecom Namibia is to make Namibia a part of the vibrant and innovative knowledge society. Developing a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship is essential to the growth and success of the ICT in our country in order to achieve our national goals of economic growth and development,” said Ndoroma at the launch. “The objective of this centre at UNAM is to create an opportunity for graduates to conduct research in a world class environment so that the much needed skills can be developed to grow the ICT knowledge base in Namibia.”

Ndoroma went on to say that the centre has the potential to contribute to the overall implementation of Namibia’s Vision 2030, the national development blueprint launched by Namibia’s founding president Sam Nujoma in 2004. “Ourmain objective and mission as a national telecommunications operator is to serve as a catalyst for realizing Vision 2030 by creating the necessary infrastructural conditions. We see that as part of our responsibility as one of the leading ICT players in the country.” In addition to supplying and installing all the equipment and software at the centre, Telecom Namibia is also providing four research scholarships to promising Namibian students aiming to do postgraduate studies while setting out on a career in the industry.

Whether or not Namibia is classed as a developed nation by that date—and given its natural resources, political stability and its geographical advantage as a staging post between Europe, the burgeoning oil ports of West Africa to the west and South Africa and Asia to the east, this is by no means impossible—Vision 2030 has given the country a goal to pursue with vigour.

Telecom Namibia’s vision is to be the leading and preferred ICT player in the country. The company’s strategic roadmap provides direction in the development and innovation of solutions while creating sustainable value for all its stakeholders. Angula said Telecom Namibia is redefining itself in order to adapt to the rapid changes taking place in the telecom industry, for the good of its customers and the country as a whole.

"I think the future is exciting for a couple of reasons. First, it is encouraging to me to see that Telecom Namibia has, and continues to, invest so much into the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. And secondly, I believe that the new data products will help to encourage productivity at all levels of business, both small and corporate," he concluded.