Normally we like to keep clear of non-technology issues. It allows us to focus and write about the things we know best. People at Telecel (or just people with interests in Telecel) however keep spending generous amounts of time generating news on the other side of the line. And it clearly affects the technology side of things at Telecel.
Take yesterday’s “Telecel in tender scandal” article in Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail paper for example. There are allegations of unprocedural tendering, flouting of indigenization regulations, an issue of under-qualified expats and deportations. There’s even some mention of the dreaded racism at play.
From a technology and business perspective this is worrying. A healthy Telecel is in everyone’s interest. Everyone from consumers, business, other mobile operators, the government, to the general telecoms ecosystem. We all need a healthy Telecel.
As the second largest mobile operator in Zimbabwe, Telecel has long been considered by consumers & business a practical alternative to Econet (the largest). It hasn’t fared badly as an alternative. Telecel even has a mobile banking service that Econet currently doesn’t offer. The only service visibly lacking on the Telecel network is mobile broadband, but Telecel has promised to deliver the service in this quarter. It will come with Blackberry services, the first in Zimbabwe.
Econet needs a healthy Telecel too. A troubled Telecel leaves subscribers with little choice, and business environments resulting in fewer choices attract competition and tariff commissions. The attention of anti-monopoly commissions is the kind of attention no company wants.
Back to Telecel; we received some information from a friend yesterday. The summary of last week’s events according to him is that a British expatriate fired a Sales Rep that he was convinced was stealing various things from the network. The Sales Rep then reported the expat to Immigration and the expat was locked up on Friday. He spent the weekend in custody with nobody allowed to see him.
Now we hear this British expat is one of the architects working on the rollout of Telecel’s mobile broadband and bringing Blackberry services to the network. Apparently he is (or was, depending on what happens today) working on an interesting cheaper Internet solution through the use of some abandoned satellite bandwidth that was in use by GMTV in the UK before it closed.
The British expat it’s said “is so upset that if released that he will most likely return to England.”
We cannot say of the accuracy of our source on the situation on the ground, but take the Zimpapers article and this information and you have an unpretty internal situation at Telecel. Embroiled in allegations of racism, reps with sticky fingers, under-qualified expats, unprocedural tenders, disgruntled local employees and indigenization squabbles, Telecel’s technology suffers. The business suffers. The consumers are left to the mercy of a near monopoly.
Despite the fact that a healthy Telecel is a win-win for stakeholders, somehow the stakeholders just keep feeding the flames.