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The Telkom Mobile Network

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Telkom Mobile is a very competent and much loved mobile network provider in South Africa. Relatively inexpensive data (brought to you by cheap data deals), decent network speeds, and good network coverage in urban areas have helped propel Telkom to be the third largest mobile network operator in South Africa.

Telkom's logo.
Telkom’s logo. Source: telkom.co.za

The Telkom Mobile network is a business unit of Telkom Consumer, a wholly-owned business of the JSE-listed Telkom Group.

The story of Telkom is lengthy, having started operating over 140 years ago in South Africa. It has evolved from a telephony-communication-only company to an internet service provider, and now it includes Telkom Mobile, a mobile network operator.

From 8ta to Telkom Mobile: the network’s brief history

Starting its life in 2010 as the 8ta mobile network Telkom Mobile entered and competed in the tough South African cellular network market.

Using its parent Telkom’s infrastructure and communications expertise Telkom Mobile invested in its cell towers, building and buying cell towers to quickly and swiftly build out its network.

After a rebranding exercise, the 8ta brand gave way to Telkom Mobile back in 2013.

By 2013 Telkom had opened 38 Telkom Express stores and 9 flagship stores. Invested in internet products like Smart Internet Saver, and eventually captured a subscriber base of more than 1.5 million by March 2013.

The Telkom Group’s board, then led by Jabu Mabuza (who died of covid-related complications on 16 June 2021), put its trust in the capable hands of Sipho Maseko to lead the executive team in achieving its goals.

Mr. Maseko, who joined in 2013 as the Telkom Group’s CEO, and his executive team, would go on to lead Telkom Mobile to be the number three most subscribed telco in South Africa, and become its group’s highest revenue generator.

Sipho Maseko. Source: iol.co.za / Simphiwe Mbokazi

The technology-enabled telecommunications group

Having started life as a government entity Telkom was often perceived as another bureaucratic slumberland, where management was seen to be asleep at the wheel. But Jabu Mabuza and Sipho Maseko showed up and turned that myth on its head, as far as Telkom was concerned. The telecommunications market is tough and competitive, and by 2016 the group seemed to have figured out where it wants to go by rebranding from 8ta to Telkom Mobile.

The group sought to find synergies and establish a base from which to grow its services and provide its offerings.

Telkom bought BCX for its ICT capabilities, running OpenServe and Gyro for their infrastructure, and yep! (YelloPages) as its digital platform to connect SMME businesses to its digital solutions. They also have investments in underground sea cables that go around the African continent and one that also goes to the Americas.

Telkom has more than 100 brick-and-mortar shops and kiosks dotted around South Africa’s major centers but has also invested in its online shop, ensuring it doesn’t lag in slinging its wares where people are shopping now. It has divided its online shop into 1) personal, 2) home, and 3) business, where it can focus its customers on what may be suitable for them to make their purchases.

A Telkom brick-and-mortar shop. Johannesburg, 2017.

Telkom’s strategy and vision

The Telkom Group’s current strategy looks to reduce its debts and capture a larger share of the digital, telco, and ICT services markets. The implementation of this strategy has been in progress since 2017, with minor adjustments each year after a thorough strategic review process.

group of people on a conference room
Telkom held a thorough strategic review process in 2021. Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

What Telkom sought to do, according to its vision, was become the conduit that seamlessly connects its customers to a better life. Thus it implemented a strategy that:

  • Expanded and modernized its mobile network infrastructure to provide a quality mobile network and mobile broadband to its customers.
  • Built ICT services and converged solutions that focused on products for the SMME market.
  • Built and invested in network and platform solutions that supported e-commerce, big data, gaming, and financial technologies.
  • Offered a wholesale platform so that smaller telcos could onsell mobile data solutions.
  • Reduced its group debt and increased its revenue streams using existing and emerging digital services.
  • Improved its overall customer experience and corporate culture.

After Mr. Maseko stepped down in 2021 the Telkom Consumer CEO, Serame Taukobong, took the reins and was promoted to be the new GCEO going into 2022.

The group’s new chairperson was also announced in 2021. Telkom’s Group Chairperson from 2021 is now Sello Moloko.

Telkom Mobile’s subscriber base grows

Telkom Mobile reported that by 2021 its subscriber base had grown to a staggering 15.3 million mobile subscribers! It also said that its revenue for mobile services stood at over R16 billion for the 2020/2021 reporting period.

Telkom consumer business

Telkom Consumer is a business unit under the Telkom Group, and it houses the Telkom Mobile operation. Telkom Consumer’s current CEO is Lunga Siyo, taking over from the current GCEO Serame Taukobong.

Telkom Mobile’s services

One product that is missing from Telkom Mobile’s suite of products is 5G. More so because Telkom has an uncapped LTE data product for R449 per month with a high 500GB throttling limit that MTN and Vodacom do not match. Mobile internet that reaches 5G speeds helps consumers without access to fibre to achieve so much in their homes and businesses.

But, Telkom promises 5G in the near future, saying that by 2026 5G coverage will be between 25%-40% of its network’s data offerings.

Telkom Mobile offers the following to its customers:

Cellphone contracts

Getting a cellphone on a contract is one of the best ways to buy a high-end smartphone. Instead of a layby, putting it on a credit card, or shelling out over R20,000 cash for an iPhone 13 Pro Max getting a contract phone means you can finance it over a period of 24 months.

Telkom’s cellphone contracts are 24 to 36 months long where you get a new cellphone that is bundled with a voice only or voice and data plans.

Their range includes the most popular smartphone brands like the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Huawei cellphones.

Mobile data plans

Prospective customers are able to choose data plans that are SIM and data combo or are device, SIM, and data combo. Their subscribers are fortunate that they can choose between month-to-month, 24-months, and prepaid plans.

These data plans are called: FreeMe, Flexon, and Infinite:

  • Telkom FreeMe: The basic contract that comes with inclusive value data.
  • Telkom Infinite: A new offering that gives users uncapped data (albeit subject to FUP) that heavy mobile data users will appreciate.
  • Telkom Flexon: For users who want the best of both prepaid and contract: receiving monthly subscription data, and the ability to top it up if it runs out.

Device and data plans

A bit different from the cellphone contracts, Telkom offers devices that are bundled with data SIM cards. This can be seen as a non-core product, but it aligns with the strategy to increase mobile data subscriptions:

  • Tablets: Customers can get a plan that includes a tablet, such as an Apple iPad, bundled with a data plan.
  • Notebooks and PCs: Again, a device such as a notebook or PC will be bundled with a data plan, which aligns with their mobile subscriptions strategy

Fixed wireless internet

Using their own data network Telkom offers LTE and LTE-A network solutions to the home.

Home LTE: With a good range of fixed and uncapped data plans home consumers can pick their perfect speeds + data bundle combos. If consumers use their home internet as the primary way of streaming TV content then they can go with generous uncapped solutions, or get a capped data package so that they are in control of their monthly spending.

Mobile internet modems: Telkom’s fixed wireless internet solutions include WiFi routers and modems.

Financial services

Telkom has put together its own digital wallet digital payment facility called Telkom Pay.

Screenshot: Telkom Pay Digital Wallet app. Source: Telkom Pay app.

With Telkom Pay customers can:

  • Send and receive money, including from neighbouring countries
  • Shop using vouchers Telkom partner outlets
  • Get personalized Mo’Nice deals

Telkom’s most important contact for consumers

Telkom Customer Service Branch

0800 11 5357

Telkom Head Office

61 Oak Avenue, The Hub
Highveld Techno Park
Centurion
0157

Telkom Business

10217
Open Monday to Friday 08:00-17-00
Open Saturdays 08:00-13:00

Telkom Pay WhatsApp number

068 483 5566

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