BPC marketing and communications manager, Spencer Moreri has told Mmegi the super vendor model will allow pre-paid customers to buy electricity irrespective of which part of the country they are based. He said the company will introduce scratch cards and nzamela, just like mobile phone providers to resolve congestion in areas, which are currently supplying pre-paid electricity.
"We are going to do this in such a way that our customers will get service from tuck shops (dimausu) and even individuals in the street just like pre-paid airtime for cellular companies," Moreri explained.
The development is meant to resolve the problems caused by poor mobile phone network coverage in the country, which has dogged the purchase of pre-paid electricity. The current sale of pre-paid electricity depends on GPRS technology through mobile phone service providers. Currently, mobile phone companies are experiencing persistent network problems in many parts of the country due to saturation. Besides poor network problems, pre-paid electricity customers especially in rural areas are adversely affected by the low number of selling points.
Moreri explained that when the BPC pre-paid system is not working, it is either because of a problem with the network provided by cellular companies, or that BPC server is down. He said they have observed that most customers prefer to buy prepaid electricity late in the evening or during month-ends and this causes congestion.
Moreri explained that currently, BPC prepaid electricity cannot be sold where there is no cellular network. "Our GPRS system works together with the cellular network and that is why we don't supply prepaid electricity in most areas where there is no network," he said.
The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) has said mobile phone operators must constantly upgrade their networks to keep pace with increased demand and improve reception. BTA has said in a press statement that in some places, efforts by the service providers to improve their network coverage have been hampered by unwillingness of the authorities to avail land to put up additional transmission facilities. The problem has been more pronounced in Mochudi where a transmission tower was vandalised after allegations that it was a health hazard.
Last week, attempts by Minister of Transport and Communications Nonofo Molefhi to resolve the dispute failed as Bakgatla stuck to their guns. Despite the setbacks, BTA has said it is talking to service providers about the poor network problems and customers should be kept abreast of the developments.
BTA explained that the increased demand for advanced data services has resulted in more demand for bandwidth."BTA would like to request the telecommunications customers and users for patience and understanding during this period," the statement said. The regulatory body has assured the public of its commitment to ensure that telecommunications services meet acceptable standards.