Bots power utility, Liquid in venture

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE-BOTSWANA Power Corporation (BPC) and Liquid Telecom have signed a joint venture in which the latter will release excess optical fibres from its network to the former.

This new business arrangement is expected to create a new telecoms network provider with an extensive reach across Botswana.

Liquid Telecom is part of the Econet Group, owned by Zimbabwean telecoms tycoon Strive Masiyiwa.

The agreement was signed by BPC Chief Executive Officer, Jacob Raleru, and his Liquid Telecom counterpart Nic Rudnickat at a ceremony held in Gaborone recently.

The new joint venture will operate under the name Liquid Telecom Botswana.

The utility company owns and operates an optical fibre cable network that is embedded in its high voltage transmission lines. This fibre network will be commercialised for the first time in order to provide network services across the country.

The BPC Board of Directors approved the commercialisation of its network in March 2016, and following a period of competitive bidding, Liquid Telecom was selected as the preferred partner.

The use of the infrastructure will be granted to Liquid Telecom Botswana under an Indefeasible Right of Use Agreement (IRUA).

In a joint statement, the new partners said the structure of the deal will enable BPC to make more effective use of its existing assets, while allowing Liquid Telecom to better serve the network needs of its wholesale and enterprise customers in and outside the region.

“Rather than taking any rental payments, the capital value of the IRUA will be used to purchase BPC’s equity stake, which is 42.5 percent. Liquid Telecom will be the majority stakeholder and will, as the technology expert, be responsible for the day-to-day management of the company,” said the statement.

“The arrangement allows BPC to diversify its revenue base, while maintaining focus on its own core mandate of providing secure and reliable electricity services to the national economy.”

BPC is a state-owned company responsible for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity within Botswana. The company, as the only supplier of electricity in the country, has built an extensive network that covers almost the whole country, with particular emphasis on settlements.

A subsidiary of Econet Global, Liquid Telecom began life as the satellite and voice operator Econet Satellite Services, which was founded in 1997. The company has been named Best African Wholesale Carrier for the last four years at the annual Global Carrier Awards.

Rebranding to Liquid Telecom in 2004, the company went on to launch the high-speed, cross-border fibre network linking southern Africa to the rest of the world in 2009.

Liquid Telecom’s joint venture with BPC consolidates its lead as the leading broadband and connectivity provider in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

It has built Africa’s largest single fibre network currently spanning over 40,000km, including Neotel’s network (pending approvals), across borders and covering Africa’s fastest-growing economies where no fixed network has existed before.

The company has since grown to provide services to more than 50 global wholesale carriers operating in eastern, central and southern Africa, Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, as well as the national and international enterprise market. Liquid Telecom supplies fibre optic, satellite and international carrier services to Africa’s largest mobile network operators, ISPs and businesses of all sizes.

The company also provides payment solutions to financial institutions and retailers, as well as data storage and communication solutions to businesses across Africa and beyond.

Liquid Telecom Mauritius (LTM) is the holding company for the Liquid Telecom Group, with wholesale, enterprise and retail operations in 15 locations across Africa and beyond.

Over the last three years, LTM has invested heavily in developing and building liquid’s terrestrial fibre-optic backbone throughout eastern, central and southern Africa.

Liquid telecom’s previous big deal this year involved buying the South African fixed-line operator Neotel in a deal that will create the continent’s biggest broadband network.

Liquid Telecom Botswana joins the family of Liquid Telecom Group across Africa including countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the UK.