R150m telecoms project for Botswana

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About 150 villages in southern and north-eastern Botswana could soon have telecommunications services, thanks to a Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) contract which was recently awarded jointly to Siemens and AST Botswana.

The contract calls for a combination of wireless local loop and point-to-point radio equipment, and is worth about R150 million. Siemens will supply the wireless equipment, while the site infrastructure, solar plant and fibre optic cabling will be provided by AST.

"Wireless local loop systems are being used in this project for a number of reasons, not the least being that it is one of the easiest and quickest telecoms systems to roll-out," says a Siemens spokesman.

"Not only is it a whole lot less labour-intensive - there are no cabling trenches to be dug or poles to erect - but it also eliminates the possibility of copper theft, which has impeded similar projects in the past."

He says the cost of the project also works out slightly lower than a fixed-line approach, as the labour expenses that are saved through the use of a technology-based system make it more affordable.

"This project is the latest in a long line of telecommunications contracts that Siemens has focused on in southern Africa. We have rolled out a variety of networks and systems in most of the countries in the SADC region."

Letsapa Mojaphoko, acting chief executive of BTC, says the project, known as "Nteletsa", is poised to stimulate much-needed economic activity, with the roll-out of this initiative into three districts with a population of over 120 000.

"The project is already under way, and rural subscribers should be using the system by mid-February 2003, many of them experiencing telecommunications services for the first time."

"We are delighted to be able to provide the required telecommunication solution, as it is an important investment in the future of Botswana," says Thoko Mokgosi, MD for fixed networks at Siemens.

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