For over 11 years, Telepassport has provided telecommunication solutions in Namibia. The company has also been linked with plans to launch a mobile virtual network (MVN), partnering TN Mobile.
Below is an extract of an interview conducted by the Windhoek Observer (WO) with Telepassport Managing Director, Klaus Bartsch (KB), who expressed his views on the local telecoms sector and the opportunities available.
WO: Kindly give us a brief background on the business, including services offered?
KB: Telepassport Communications PTY Ltd started in 2005, as a supplier of least-cost routing (LCR) to the Namibian private and public sector.
WO: What’s your view about the changing trends in the telecommunications sector, where data is overtaking voice calls, and how is Telepassport dealing with the changes locally?
KB: Namibia is following the world trend of moving away from voice calls to data calls. IP services like Skype and WhatsApp are making it easy and convenient to talk to business or private people. Telepassport has introduced our own IP-PBX systems, while continuing to connect to the world via old technology, like the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) (a set of communication standards for simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video and data) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) - an open, digital cellular technology used for transmitting mobile voice and data services.
WO: From the company’s point of view, what challenges exist in the Namibian telecommunications sector and how can they be addressed?
KB: Telepassport is in a position to utilise any existing network service providers, be it MTC, TN Mobile, Telecom or Paratus. That is for voice and data networks. The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) is regulating the tariffs for voice and data, and this protects the end-users interests, but also forces the service providers to provide competitive tariffs. The one challenge remaining is the interconnect tariffs between service providers.
WO: What’s your view on infrastructure sharing? Do you support it?
KB: We support infrastructure sharing, simply because it makes business sense, and it reduces the unsightly erection of towers all over the country.
WO: What’s your view on the regulatory environment in the country and do you think it supports increased investment in the sector?
KB: We support the CRAN concept. Yet, there are numerous current issues specific to product certification that just add to the business frustrations we all experience. We understand the need for regulation of transmitter frequencies, even for gate motor remotes. However, we cannot see CRAN monitoring the regulations on a countrywide spectrum. It is just going to be a task too big, which will result in grey products entering Namibia, and companies that operate within the CRAN rules will suffer financially as a result of that.
WO: What new products can we expect to come from the company?
KB: The natural migration of Telepassport is into becoming a solutions provider for data, VoIP, networking and WIFI applications. We have specialised successfully in certain niche markets, which are showing promising growth and acceptance by the end-users.
WO: Going forward, what’s your vision for the business and where do you see it in five years’?
KB: Five-year projections in Namibia are filled with potholes. Namibia is influenced by political developments in the SADC region, especially in South Africa. Internally our leaders have to support the private sector more, by motivating for investment and growth. Namibia will battle to run with the big dogs on the technology level, especially where a cashless society is being implemented in Europe. Namibia has great telecoms and data infrastructure.
If it is maintained and upgraded, we will still be operating in five years. But, Namibia should be careful not to lose sight of the loss of skills. We need our skills to remain in the country.