Telone recently re-branded which saw it assuming a new corporate identity. Tonderai Rutsito (TR) caught up with the managing director of TelOne, Mrs Chipo Mutasa (CM) during the recently held Innovation Africa digital summit in Victoria Falls, to discuss TelOne’s new vision and thrust.

TR: You recently made headlines with your rebranding. Why have you rebranded, what does this rebranding mean to you as TelOne and why did you choose this particular time to do it?
CM: Firstly, the transformation of TelOne did not just start this year, it is a journey which we began in 2013, right through to 2014.

What you see here is work that we have done over the past 18 months. We have embarked on a transformation strategy and we are saying we are no longer a fixed voice business, but we are now a converged telecoms operator where we can provide converged services.

Currently we are in the voice business, but we also have broadband and satellite, where we also provide satellite connections throughout the country, so we want the market and Zimbabwe to know that we are a converged services operator. We are not just about voice, but we are about internet, we are also providing other services that we will be announcing soon.

TR: What is the thinking behind the new logo and brand?
CM: The future is not just about doing or providing just one service, but its providing a combination of services and as TelOne we want to be known as a one stop shop for ICT services, not just voice but broadband services as well as other value added services and we are saying, we have this convergence blue button, where one is able to tap into a wide range of services from TelOne at a touch of a button

TR: You officially announced the rebranding last Thursday and today, the new colours are all over, how did you manage to do that in such a short space of time.
CM: Like I previously said, we have been working on this move for the past 18 months, we were well prepared for it and invested a lot to make the rebranding exercise a possibility. Today all our branches have been successfully rebranded.

TR: What kind of coverage do you have under your fibre network?
CM: TelOne has been building its fibre optic network for a long time and that optic fibre network now spans over 2 500 kilometres, we are still building on it but so far what we have is a backbone fibre that stretches right from the eastern border at Forbes in Mutare right up to Harare, Bulawayo then Plumtree. Up north, we are stretching to Kariba; that is our backbone fibre.

Apart from the backbone fibre, we have actually developed our metro fibre connectivity in all the major towns and cities, starting with Harare, then Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Kariba, Victoria falls and Masvingo and also Kwekwe. What that means is in central business districts of those areas we actually have fibre which connects to any building in any of those towns and that means TelOne is providing fibre network to companies.

TR: When are you going to start rolling out your fibre to homes?
CM: We have started to build on our fibre networks by going into the homes and we have started rolling out fibre networks to the homes in Harare. We are in Mount Pleasant, Westgate area and also outside in place like Ruwa and Ngezi

TR: Why has it taken you time to implement fibre network to the home when you’ve always had the backbone?
CM: Well, we have to start from somewhere and as TelOne, we are working with very little capital and we always made sure we optimise on the little resources we have. You may be aware that we have an existing broadband product which is ADSL, so over the past years we were building upon the ADSL product which works off our copper network and it works very well and we are still building upon that network. At the moment we are actually refreshing ADSL so that it is more appropriate to our market and to what our client would like to see.

We have actually redefined ADSL to be a home product and also a small business product where it can provide solutions to the small home office as ADSL enterprise.

TR: Are you not too late to join fibre now?
CM: We are not late at all because we have always had things going as TelOne and it was just a matter of putting our priorities in order and we are excited about bringing fibre to homes.

TR: Will this not create some sort of distortion when you have ADSL and your fibre, are these two products not competing?
CM: No at all, we have distinct markets and pricing of the product and I think there will always be a market for our product. The ADSL will always have a following and the price which is a larger part of our market will look at, you know, affordability is one issue we need to address in Zimbabwe and I believe ADSL offers the right price. In the past I think fibre was more on the expensive side but as you can see we are now offering our fibre at affordable rates.

TR: Telone is now offering the cheapest fibre on the market, what does this mean to you?
CM: As TelOne, we are equally excited, as a state-owned entity I think that is our mandate to bring connectivity at the lowest possible price. Obviously that doesn’t take away the need for sustainability and profitability, we are very mindful of that. One of the major things you should be aware of is that TelOne is the only company with shareholding in the undersea optic fibre cable

TR: How sustainable will this be to you?
CM: It is very sustainable and profitable because what we are talking about is volumes. It’s a volumes game where we are saying we want more people access the internet. We are working in line with the Zim-Asset by providing connectivity to all Zimbabwean citizens and that is why we are in that area.

TR: There are allegations and reports that you only tailored your pricings to respond to your competitor, what’s your response to that?
CM: Competition has always been there, we can’t have prices that will not sustain us, we are only providing the market a product at the best price because this is what the nation wants, it does not make sense for us to have a national product which is unsustainable or crafted towards undermining our competition.

TR: Speaking of data services you are offering, we understand that you also recently officially announced your FTTH that is Fibre to the Home plus Wi-fi, can we just give us more details on the new services that you have officially launched?
CM: we are in the process of rolling out our public Wi-fi, right now in Harare, we are almost in all the public areas, we are in areas such as Mupedzanhamo market in Mbare, Copa Cabana, 4th Street Bus Terminus etc. Those volumes should turn into meaningful revenues for us and we are excited.

TR: How much is this going to cost?
CM: For the public Wi-fi, the vouchers are only a dollar for 100 mb. People in the informal sector can now view their WhatsApp, check their emails at affordable rates.

TR: Speaking of WhatsApp and WhatsApp Calling, is this not a threat to you as a voice operator?
CM: The ICT revolution will always require us to keep up with the developments and the developments in WhatsApp is only one for example, we are now bracing to get revenue from data-based usage, so it’s actually a new business opportunity for us.

TR: Any last comments to the reader?
CM: TelOne is a generational company, it has been there before our time and it will be there after our time. What we need to do is to leave the right foundation, a right legacy for TelOne. And we are known not just for providing just the services we have spoken about but for developing lifetime relationships and TelOne will be here and we will always be here to listen and always be there to address the wave of ICT revolution in Zimbabwe and internationally.

The writer is the editor of TechnoMag, Zimbabwe’s premier and authoritative technology magazine for more information visit ;www.technomag.co.zw on technom.ag/i3, Follow us on Twitter @TechnoMagZw And like us on ww.facebook.com/technomagzw