24 February 2009
South Africa’s emerging status as one of the world’s most liberalised telecoms markets has received a boost with the launch of O-Tel, the latest entrant into a rapidly hotting-up telecoms space.
O-Tel is a licensed national telecoms operator, having receiving its individual Electronic Communication Network Services (i-ECNS) license from the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) in January.
The telecoms company is able to offer a nationwide telecommunications service from day one because subscribers connect either to the Vodacom 3G network or Telkom’s ADSL network to be able to make telephone calls or surf the internet.
“O-Tel can provide anyone within Telkom ADSL or Vodacom 3G coverage with a telephone line for R99 per month with no contract necessary,” O-Tel CEO Mohammad Patel said in a statement this week.
The company promises business and residential subscribers tariffs as affordable as 45 cents (excluding VAT) per minute for local calls to Telkom numbers, true per-second billing from the first second (though international calls are billed per minute), a 24-hour turnaround time, both telephone and internet connections and nationwide coverage.
“The available opportunities within the South African telecoms market right now are phenomenal,” Patel said. “Icasa has to be commended for finally issuing i-ECNS licences so that innovative companies can step up to the challenge of reducing the country’s historically unaffordable telecoms costs.”
O-Tel supplies subscribers with proprietary wireless routers called O-Boxes designed by the globe’s most respected telecoms equipment manufacturers.
Subscribers are then able to purchase their own choice of standard telephone handset to plug into the O-Tel hardware and then make highly affordable voice calls to any telephone in the world with the added advantage of optional internet access.
Subscribers are able to sign up for O-Tel service either via the company’s website or via a network of dealers.
The recent awarding of i-ECNS licences by Icasa, following last year’s Altech court judgment, has turned South Africa into one of the world’s most competitive telecoms markets overnight.
“Few of the almost 533 companies to which licences were awarded will be able to … challenge the existing telecoms status quo because many of them have chosen to build their own networks,” Patel said. “Recognising the prohibitive cost of building a national telecoms network, O-Tel decided to use the networks of existing operators.”
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