Colleges ditch pricey Telkom service

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

State education institutions are opting out of the state telecoms provider now that it is no longer a monopoly.

Four months ago Ekurhuleni East College, a public tertiary institution located in underprivileged communities of the East Rand, started looking for alternatives to its faulty, overpriced Telkom network.

Communication Solutions (Comsol), a wireless network developer, offered a wireless network based on a radio link product that is used by Motorola.

In what is dubbed the E-Schools project, the Ekurhuleni East College will get financing from a national R1,6billion government recapitalisation fund allocated for the upgrading of public schools around the country.

Other Further Education and Training (FET) colleges have shown interest in the project including the Central Johannesburg and South West Gauteng colleges. Rural schools with poor access to training facilities for teachers have also shown an interest, and will await the final stages of the project before jumping in.

Johan Groenewald, recapitalisation manager at the Ekurhuleni East College, is in charge of spending R55,7million allocated to the college for the upgrade of township campuses in Kwathema, Brakpan, Springs, Daveyton and Benoni.

Groenewald said: "When we merged the five campuses to form the Ekurhuleni East College FET, we had problems with connectivity on our old network.

"The main problem was bandwidth. Urgent e-mails would only arrive hours later and we had difficulty with sending folders to each other," said Groenewald.

This is not the first contract that Telkom has lost as a result of its poor service and continued theft of its copper wires.

Apart from the loss of customers, Telkom lost out on a State Information Technology Agency (SITA) contract worth almost R500 million to second network operator Neotel earlier this year.

Darren Morgan, Comsol sales manager, said: "We built them an entirely new network which is now up and running with data and email. They will own the network meaning that the R1,2million they pay to us is a once-off fee.

"We will take out all their analogue phones and install 140 Voice over IP (VoIP) phones so that the five campuses will be able to communicate with each other without having to pay for each call," Morgan said.

The college has said the entire network, including the benefits of VoIP phones and additional bandwidth, will still amount to a saving of 35percent from the previous faulty copper cable-based infrastructure.