Gateway Communications targets voice market

Pan-African international connectivity provider, Gateway Communications, is planning to launch a continent-wide call re-origination service to support its expansion into the region’s corporate telephony market.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  January 5, 2004

Pan-African international connectivity provider, Gateway Communications, is planning to launch a continent-wide call re-origination service to support its expansion into the region’s corporate telephony market. The service, which launched in South Africa, Kenya and West African markets towards the end of 2003, will be expanded across the continent this year. Businesses will connect to the service by installing a router on their private branch exchange (PBX), providing automated call set and fast connection times on international calls. Initially, Gateway is pitching to call centres and its existing multinational customers in Southern Africa, which it already targets with regional and intercontinental data connectivity. “We’ve looked at our customers’ bills and their calls are typically to mobile networks in Europe, North America and other parts of Southern Africa. It’s those calls that we, because of our position as a wholesale carrier, are able to offer,’ says Peter Gbedemah, managing director of Gateway Communications. “We have volumes of data traffic going to Zimbabwe and Botswana and the ability to reach these places. There are very few carriers that offer a competitive price [and] good quality to these areas,” he adds. Gateway will launch the service based on call re-origination technology, which it says will allow it to offer discounted voice services and position itself as an alternative to incumbent telecoms operators. “One of the most common difficulties faced by multinational companies operating in Africa today is the cost of international communications,” says Gbedemah. “These services have typically been delivered by monopoly operators who have not reduced international tariffs in line with the falling costs of delivering these services,” he adds. Gateway has been prevented in the past from offering international voice services in South African due to regulatory restrictions on competitors with national operator, Telkom South Africa. However, Gbedemah says that the provider has taken advice that the service could now be deemed legal. “We have been frustrated for a number of years [but] we have taken a bolder approach and the government and Telkom have done little to prevent it. Our customers have asked for these services and our lawyers have told us that there is an ability for us to provide them under the current legislation,” he adds. Gateway, meanwhile, will shortly find out if the consortium it is involved in has been successful in its bid to participate as the second national operator in South Africa. The CommuniTel group, which includes Gateway, Telecom Namibia and other investors, is competing with the Two Consortium for a 51% stake in the new operator. The South African government is expected to make a decision this month. “We look forward to a resolution of [the process] and a determination of what the participation of the licencee companies will look like. I think its high time a decision was made and we got on and had a second national operator,” says Gbedemah.

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