The para-statal Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) thisÂ week revealed that it has committed substantial amounts of funds towardsÂ the BOTSGATE backbone as it moves to mitigate criticism from corporateÂ organisations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) about the efficiency ofÂ bandwidth.
In the next three years, BTC has committed US$ 5 million towards theÂ enhancement of BOTSGATE, according to the para-statalâ€™s head ofÂ wholesale division, Duncan Pie. Â Pie revealed the investment will beef up the local access network whileÂ simultaneously allowing BTC to offer services at reduced costs.
BTC operates BOTSGATE, which is the only one in the country that hasÂ international terrestrial links that connect to 6 global peering pointsÂ amongst them London, Canada, South Africa, Amsterdam, New York andÂ Zambia.Â All the major ISPs in Botswana that were running own satellites two yearsÂ back are now using the internet backbone.
â€œBOTSGATE international connectivity has been strategically placed toÂ allow access to the worldâ€™s largest global backbonesâ€, Pie added. Â Pie praised the backbone stating that it can be customised for wholesale,Â corporate, research, education and retail markets adding because theyÂ understand the market, it gives â€˜us the chance to customise the solutionsâ€™.
Some of the initiatives that will come with making BOTSGATE attractiveÂ include localising regional traffic in that if a mail is destined for SouthÂ Africa, it does not have to go London first.Â Meanwhile, Pie has assured the market that with liberalisation, the cost ofÂ bandwidth will ultimately be affordable because of choice of suppliers.
Pie said there have been changes in the market that affect pricing. Up toÂ last year, Telcom SA was the only provider that had access to underseaÂ cable, but with liberalisation, new players have come to the fore.Â â€œWhen the market was liberalised for players to access undersea cable, itÂ changed pricing,â€ Pie revealed, giving the example of EASSy and Seacom.
Although BTC bandwidth is still expensive because of economies of scale,Â the para-statal has slashed prices since 2007 and recently in SeptemberÂ 2009 that amounts to 40percent cumulatively.Â However, the market insists that the pricing is still above the roof and thisÂ is made worse by the announcement that the reduction is not across theÂ board.
Pie revealed that since bandwidth is a volume business, the 40% reductionÂ is not across the board, but it will depend on the amount of internetÂ purchased, which means it does not affect an ordinary person.Â It is only those who purchase high volumes that will have discounts.Â Botswanaâ€™s biggest volume of internet is in Gaborone and Francistown, butÂ BTC has been advised to slash prices more to attract new business.
â€œBring the prices down and you get more data connections across theÂ country,â€ one BTC client advised.
It is believed that data and internet demand is very elastic in that whenÂ you reduce prices, the uptake rises.Â BTC also announced that it is investing in a landing station in Namibia thatÂ will reduce the cost of bandwidth.Â Under the 50/50 percent joint venture with Telecom Namibia, BTC willÂ invest millions of Pula for the undersea cable.
Meanwhile, BTC Group General Manager Commercial, Loic Descamps, saysÂ he acknowledges the challenges that the business community hasÂ including the global recession and business streamlining.Â He says BTC and government have invested resources to ensure thatÂ Botswana remains competitive player in the data market throughÂ involvement in the two sub-marines cables that will be operational in theÂ third quarter of 2010.