With copper theft rife, Songimali saw a market opportunity to offer wireless telecoms services, and ECN was more than willing to help.
Catering effectively to every market sector is very challenging. Often this creates the potential for partnerships to be formed. One such example is the relationship which exists between ECN and telecoms reseller, Songimali. “When ECN started, we had no cost-effective model for servicing smaller customers,” says Andy Openshaw, ECN’s chief commercial officer. “Songimali aggregates all its traffic. So to us it appears as one bulk client, and this opens up a whole new market for us. Now, through the wholesale chain, we can target customers no matter how small they are, including those who do not have wires to their homes.
And the comment about wires to the home is really where Songimali saw the market opportunity in the first place. The company, whose name is Zulu for saving money, provides wireless connectivity to SMEs (small to medium enterprises) based in copper wire theft hot spots. Songimali supplies Voice Over IP (VoIP) telephony to companies which were becoming increasingly accustomed to no landline service. Its service runs on a number of wireless solutions for the last mile connection, such as iBurst and WiMAX.
Putting The Customer First
Songimali places great focus on customer support and service. It actively monitors its service in real time so immediate action can be taken to address any problems. Being a reseller, Songimali knows that it has to rely on ECN for a major part of the customer experience. Rolf Schurink, Songimali’s technical director notes: “Customer service is a top priority for us, and ECN enables us to deliver this. Some of the other carriers have been known to be down for weeks when they’ve had network problems. ECN has always been able to fix any problem within hours, not days.”
Songimali is well aware of the pitfalls of selecting the wrong telecoms carrier. Having experienced bad service from a previous provider, the company embarked on a rigorous selection process this time around. Ronald Gill, Songimali’s sales director, explains: “We signed up with all the major VoIP operators in SA, and tested their networks extensively. On certain days we would route all our traffic through one operator to test if they could cope with the load. We found that when volumes were low, support was good; but, when we opened the pipe, often the quality of the service fell drastically.”
Songimali’s business model also relies on a depth of technological innovation and understanding. The company developed its own pre-and post-paid billing platform to manage customer accounts. This platform links into a broadband interface that converts VoIP signals into analogue or copper cable signals that can be connected to a PBX or normal analogue phone or fax machines.
In fact, working with ECN, Songimali developed a new solution, which is a first in South Africa, enabling fax transmission from analogue machines over an IP network. “We make use of the analogue equipment everyone owns, alleviating the need for IP devices such as IP phones or PBXs, a constraint many others suppliers have,” says Gill
Understanding the budgets and requirements of its SME clients is one of Songimali’s strengths and this has helped the company to reach the market position it holds today. Likewise, ECN’s ability to understand Songimali’s business requirements has helped both companies move forward. Providing Songimali with a robust and reliable communications service to sell gives ECN a customer base it would have found hard to reach otherwise.