The Indian telecom revolution, in which deregulation has cut costs and increased the accessibility, would soon be visible in South Africa too, according to the head of the Second National Operator (SNO) here.
Ajay Pandey, managing director of SNO in which India's Tata Group has a
majority stake and which has been licensed to rival former state-owned telecom monopoly Telkom, told a call centre industry conference here that deregulation in India had reduced prices and given a huge boost to the Indian economy.
Pandey, formerly with Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), said SNO would make a visible impact over the next few years in a similar way in South Africa once its operations started later this year.
The current cost of international leased lines in South Africa is six times higher than that of India, with Telkom's fees found to be four times higher than comparable service providers in 14 countries in a survey last year.
In his position at VSNL, Pandey had the responsibility of rolling out both fixed line and mobile networks across India, which the consortium he is heading believes will stand him in good stead in applying similar principles here.
The consortium is expected to pump in more than seven billion rands into the project within the next six years, of which Tata's contribution would be about 1.5 billion rands.
The SNO, which was licensed at an initial cost of 100 million rands recently, is faced with the daunting task of making residential and business lines available to half of the South African population in major cities within five years of start-up and to 80 percent of the entire country within a decade as a licence condition imposed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.
Pandey suggested that a priority would be public schools and clinics in rural areas, which would benefit from the introduction of high-speed Internet access.
Pandey also believed that the experience of VSNL would prove valuable in rolling out more complex telecommunication services for the benefit of the call centre industry.
Despite the rapid growth of the call centre industry in South Africa, Pandey said there was still huge potential for growth, especially because of South Africa's alignment with European Time Zones.