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DRC gets wireless community payphones

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Tellumat’s Wireless Solutions division has signed a deal to supply Vodacom with 3 000 GSM community payphones, for use by entrepreneurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

“As mobile connections and uptake continue to outstrip fixed-line rollouts in Africa, GSM is the only credible means of giving Africa a voice,” says Geoff Carey, managing executive of Tellumat Wireless Solutions (previously Tellumat Mobile).
Tellumat has sold about 120 000 community payphones since 2003.
Requiring more advanced features and getting them in the shape of Tellumat’s revised M850 model manufactured in Cape Town, Vodacom turned to Tellumat for its latest push into Africa.
“Vodacom had very specific requirements,” says Neal Vickery, Tellumat Wireless Solutions project manager for the implementation. “One major benefit of the M850 is its advanced vending options, for commodities other than GSM minutes. There are massive downstream opportunities for such value-added services.”
The phone has a built-in diagnostic facility and allows a measure of menu-based customisation. The inclusion of French as one of two display languages caters for the country’s predominantly French-speaking citizens. It also features a large, backlit LCD display and five hours talktime/two days standby.
The M850 was developed with a secure layer between its Tellumat-supplied remote management system and the M850 payphone.  This has become a requirement due to the churning of payphones within the payphone industry. It can be ‘locked’ remotely to Vodacom’s network, or even a particular base station.
This is possible through the use of the management system supporting the M850, which allows multi-user access and is capable of billing changes, managing configuration and maintenance of phones.
“All in all, the operators and Vodacom itself will have a phone that is easy to use and manage remotely, which is ideal in such a far-flung market,” says Carey.
The current batch, which is sold without operator controllers, is meant for use by small street-level operators, who typically have one or two handsets that they physically "load" with talk minutes. In future, it can also be rolled out to telecentres, for use by larger operators who control their phones from behind a counter.
Based on the growth expectations it has for GSM phones in the region, Tellumat has appointed a Kinshasa-based distribution agent. Two authorised local repair houses will provide support to operators.