Dandemutande speaks

Posted by

After last week’s announcement of Utande’s connection to the SEACOM undersea cable along Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, we visited the company for more information. Prior to this, efforts to get even the slightest of a whisper from Utande were mostly unsuccessful, apparently due to acquisition negotiations with now majority shareholder, Masawara plc. We were thus glad to meet Colin Franco, the company’s chief technical officer, and Russell Clinton the Utande CEO, for a discussion and tour of the Utande data centre.

We had time to talk to the two gentlemen about the Utande’s early operations, its current business, it’s data centre here in Harare and of course, the SEACOM connection.

As you may already know, Dandemutande (Shona for Spider Web) has been around for some 15 years. The company was founded by its current management in 1996 as an ISP reselling TelOne (then called PTC) dial-up and leased line Internet services. Not too long after founding, the startup bagged an enviable corporate giant (Delta Corporation) that demanded its undivided attention.

Back then Delta encompassed not just the beverage operations but also included Pelhams and African Sun (then known as Zimbabwe Sun). The young Utande set up and ran the company’s national Wide Area Network (WAN). According to Collin the system they operated for Delta was at the time the most advanced network of its kind nationally, encompassing depots and commercial properties Delta operated.

From then on Utande conceived and maintained a unique approach of doing business; the company managed its growth to only serve a bouquet of corporate clients. According to Russell this approach was necessitated by their main principle on providing Internet services: “We don’t believe in contention”. to deliver on their promise and to never compromise the quality of service. Perhaps a measure of the effectiveness of this approach is reflected by the fact that they still count Delta Beverages (Zimbabwe’s most valuable company by market capitalisation) as a loyal client to this day.

advertisement

When Zimbabwe’s economy was under severe stress, Dandemutande applied for and got a Internet Access Provider (IAP) licenses from the country’s telecoms regulatory authority, POTRAZ. Apparently, Dandemutande was the first provider to be awarded the IAP Class A license on 13 July 2009. Furthermore, the company began negotiations with SEACOM long before the Masawara’s acquisition when it was approached by the South African Shanduka Group to plot a way forward. Shanduka owns 12.5% of SEACOM.

Utande’s culture of operating under the radar could very well be over as they are scaling to levels that are simply too high to ignore. To begin with the investment from Masawara formulated many a headline, and numerous more behind the scenes developments will cast the spotlight on it. Chief among them is the fact that the SEACOM link is now fully running. Along with Africom, the company’s direct link to SEACOM (as previously reported) places it in a “driving seat position”. This has availed much greater capacity and necessitated a more aggressive business thrust.

Techzim believes that the company’s success will not be a question of capacity but one hinged on its ability to come out of its shell. This would require it to strike a balance between delivery and a holistic marketing effort. In essence it would have to maintain its culture of delivery and blend that with an intelligible communications strategy.

The company is now in the process of repositioning itself firstly as an enterprise Internet access provider and secondly as a value added services (VAS) enabler. What this means in terms of Internet access is that they are seeking to provide high capacity services to companies, regardless of which last mile provider they have. With a lit fibre capacity of 620 Mbps (equivalent to 1 x STM-4 circuit).

Concerning value added services; Utande is investing in new infrastructure and a skills base enabling it to provide server co-location and cloud based facilities for businesses and and third party Internet hosting resellers. The company is in a position to serve local startups, small to medium companies, large ones, ISPs, and even other IAPs. Its alliance with Dimension Data and Cisco as strategic partners has placed it within reach of becoming an important part of Zimbabwe’s ICT value chain.

Utande also indicated an interest to lure back skilled Zimbabweans into the country for deployment in the data centre operations and other areas. A separate division addressing the needs of ordinary consumers (through Wimax) is set to be introduced in future.



6 Comments

  1. Hon Ngole says:

    Thanks Clinton I have used their website’s Internet weather report way back before we had any fibre going out. It would show Telone’s gateways condition because then it was difficult to get in4 from TelOne.

    Please do a follow-up on my old and Zimbabwe’s Only free (not sure of to-date) Internet service provider, I gues they are the admins of the controversial .zw domain (mango.zw), Mango. Please! Plaese!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Hiya Hon, thanks for getting in touch. We’ll catchup with them (Mango) and find out if there’s something up…

  2. Anonymous says:

    @ClintonMutambo:disqus  I know co-location is mentioned in passing in the article, but do you know if Utande allow for server co-locating right now? Or more generally, how do the different Zimbabwean ISPs/IAPs fare when it comes to co-location? I have a personal interest in this; last I checked, only Telco advertised co-location as a service (a while back, and the fees where rather steep).

    1. Anonymous says:

      Yes l believe they are offering server co-location. Concerning the different options available locally a few (Zol, Iway, Web dev and others) also offer this. Where pricing and quality of service is concerned, l suggest you deal with providers who have this and the enterprise market as a core business. Utande would fall under such a category.

    2. Private says:

      Spiritage Communications offer colocation. They have a good data centre so i have heard from the guys who work there

  3. ronald says:

    Webdev does not offer co-location services any more. The service was replaced by Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

    http://webdevworld.com/viewinfo.cfm?id=40&linkid=53&siteid=1&linkcategoryid=5

    Virtual Private Server (Hosted locally AND internationally. Fast for all visitors)

     RAM
     Disk
    Monthly Linux

    Monthly Windows

    256 MB

     10 GB

    $25

    512 MB

     20 GB

    $50

    1,024 MB
     40 GB

    $90

    $120

    2,048 MB
     80 GB

    $150
    $240

     4,096 MB
     160 GB

    $300

    $400

     8,192 MB

     320 GB

    $600

    $750

     15,872 MB

     620 GB

    $1, 200

    $1,400

    Server Options

    Local Server Local Bandwidth 

     $10 per 10 GB / month

    International Server All Bandwidth

     $10 per 10 GB / month

    Local Server International Bandwidth

     $100 per 500 MB / month

    Additional IP addresses

     $10 / month / ip

    Automatic Server Backups Storage
     $10 per 10 GB / month

    Managed Mirroring (file,database, DNS)
     $90 / month / domain

     Manages Hosting (we manage your server)

     $90 / month / server

    Core Features

     Redundant Power 

     Reduntant Networks 

     Snapshot based server images 

     

       Linux Distributions                     Windows Images 

     Arch 2010.05

     Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise 64 – bit

     CentOS 5.5
     Windows Server 2008 SP2 Enterprise 64 – bit

     CentOS 5.4

     Windows Server 2008 SP2 Enterprise 32 – bit

     Debian 5.0 (Lenny)

     Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2  Enterprise 64 – bit

     Fedora 13 (Goddard)
     Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2 Enterprise 32 – bit

     Fedora 12 (Constantine)

     

     Gentoo 10.1

     

     Oracle EL R5U4

     

     Oracle EL R5U3 JEOS
     

     Red Hat EL 5.4

     

     Red Ht EL 5.3 
     

     Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx)

     

     Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
     

     Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope)

     

     Ubuntu 8.04.2 LTS (Hardy Heron)

     

     

     

     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.