Neotel Piggyback Policy The Answer?

Years after Neotel received its license to provide South Africa with an alternative to Telkom, by Far the majority of small businesses are still forced to depend on the old behemoth for basic fixed telephony – even those businesses situated in the middle of Neotel’s coverage areas in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Without divulging any numbers, Neotel’s head of products, Gregory Kee, says so far businesses are mostly signing up for the Neoflex Data package, Neotel’s multi-user internet connection.  But why aren’t businesses rushing out to sign up for voice lines from Neotel?

One major problem with going over to Neotel is that fixed-line number portability will only become available in the “next few months”, says Kee, although no firm deadline has been set.  It means that only business start-ups really have a choice between Neotel and Telkom, because established businesses can ill afford to give up an existing number.

Another huge hurdle in the full-scale adoption of Neotel by slightly larger businesses is its lack of line-hunting facilities.  This provides a business with one public telephone number linked to several lines in the business.  When a customer phones the number, the exchange hunts for the first available line and puts the call through.

The lack of line hunting, which Kee says will be solved “within the next few months”, means that a business with a PABX still has to rent Telkom lines for incoming calls.

It is with outgoing calls that Neotel offers a proper alternative.  Neoflex Voice is a R173-per-month line – actually a radio transmitter that plugs into a PABX – through which calls can be routed out, saving on call costs because of Neotel’s lower rates.  Neotel head of marketing, Mala Suriah, claims that businesses using Neoflex Voice lines report savings of up to 20%.  Businesses too small for a PABX system at least have a choice now when they need to add another line or two to their existing phone lines.  One such business is, founded by telecoms commentator Rudolph Muller.  He recently signed up for Neotel’s cheapest offering, its R99 a month NeoConnect Lite.  “The phone is acceptable.  It’s cheaper than Telkom.  We use it mainly as a back-up because Telkom lines go down from time to time and, for those purposes, it’s magnificent.  It can be echoey from time to time, but it is clean voice [quality].  I think people shouldn’t hesitate to see it as an alternative to Telkom’s fixed-line services.”

But Muller adds: “Certainly for no small business would I recommend either Telkom or Neotel in its entirety.  I’ll advise both, if you can afford it.  We’re blessed now in this country, after many years of fighting, with having more options.”

Muller says a recent agreement with the three cellphone providers, MTN, Cell C and Vodacom, allowing Neotel to piggyback on their mast infrastructure should significantly speed up the roll-out of Neotel’s coverage in the major centres.

Neotel discussion

Mail & Guardian


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Neotel piggyback policy the answer?