In October 2010, Telkom (South Africa’s monopoly landline company) launched their own cellular network in the country (the fourth for South Africa).
Although they haven’t actually gone live with their own network at the time of writing this (they rely on a roaming agreement with MTN), I thought I would set out a post here about why I don’t think they will survive.
Telkom was formed from the original Post Office which ran the telecommunications for South Africa in the “old” days. It was still controlled by government until it listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange a couple of years ago. Apparently the government still owns a significant portion of the shares in Telkom at this point, but they should be aiming at running like a private company.
Fat chance of that! The past mentality still pervades the company and unfortunately it’s a terribly bad “I don’t care” attitude. Last Monday (10/01/2011) I reported our business line out of order (it’s completely dead and gives callers an engaged tone, so most likely a short somewhere, easy enough to fix).
It’s now 8 days later and after calling every day, a technician is still being promised. Yesterday when I complained to the lady at the call centre, she just hung up the phone on me. Now, before you say I was being rude, I wasn’t shouting/swearing at her or insulting her. I did tell her I felt like cutting their large aerial cable to get their attention - a large number of customers reporting a problem would certainly get their attention. Was there need to cut me off? I don’t think so - it’s part of her job to sort out my problem. She works in the fault reporting section for heaven’s sake!
So what does this have to do with 8ta? Well, if Telkom can’t keep its existing customers connected, how are they going to manage additional cellular customers? Couple this with the recent news that their CEO Jeffrey Hedberg (ex Cell C CEO before Lars Reichelt) has decided not to renew his contract in March, and you can imagine a company in trouble (http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/article857638.ece/Telkom-CEO-resignation-a-calamity—Solidarity)
Coupled to this, there is a company called Trudon (previously Telkom Directory Services). They are responsible for the entire South African printed telephone directory service. Having dealt with this incompetent organisation for the past six years, I can safely say they will help bring Telkom down. Has anyone noticed how much thinner the Johannesburg Yellow Pages is from 10 years ago, and even from last year? They are losing revenue quickly.
Relating to my company, I am still waiting for invoices from the 2007 to 2008 billing year, which they have never sent through. I’m sure this must be against SARS (the South African Revenue Service) legislation?
I was evaluating the 8ta offerings for my company after their launch and was really quite keen to give them a try (a big plus is they don’t have Trevor Noah as the voice for all network messages like Cell C, but that’s another story). Seriously, would I still be considering signing up with them now after the way they’ve handled this fault?
(For those Telkom employees who may read this - the answer is NO, you lost out on our business cellular telecommunications needs).
Just ask the average South African about how unreliable and non-consumer-orientated Telkom is, and you’ll see that my viewpoint here is not unique.