Big shake-up at Altech Autopage Cellular

As JSE-listed Altech subsidiary Altech Autopage Cellular integrates with sister company Altech Technology Concepts, forming a dynamic new service provider in the Telecommunications & ICT sector, Africa Outlook talks to Altech Autopage Cellular's Boyd Chislett.

By Ian Armitage

Boyd Chislett is the chief executive officer at Altech Autopage Cellular, the largest independent cellular service provider in South Africa. He is excited, like all within the company and many outside of it, about one thing – its merger with sister company Altech Technology Concepts.

"It's very, very exciting. Leveraging on each other's infrastructure, new ground will be covered," he says.

Altech Technology Concepts is a dominant player in the provision of physical network links, Internet access, managed services and cloud-based services to the business and consumer markets.

Both firms are part of JSE-listed Allied Technologies Limited (Altech), a leading South African multi-billion rand high-technology group.

It is a "marriage made in heaven" and is part of Altech's push for "converged offerings".

"It is a positive move," Mr Chislett says. "It means both Altech Autopage Cellular and Altech Technology Concepts will be able to leverage off each other and offer customers a single point of contact, a one-stop shop, for a variety of world-class services ranging from voice, to data, to hosting, to storage solutions.

"The new company will be a single point of contact for all those services. And a successful integration will allow for further convergence in the future."

Chislett says the "convergence" is a rare occurrence amongst South African ICT companies that will result in a more "diversified portfolio, a stronger commercial platform".

"It also enables us to leverage off retail business and partner distribution channels," he says.

All employees are being integrated into the new group, with no job losses – and a new leader in the rapidly growing telecoms and IT industry will be born.

"No longer will customers have to go to different service providers when they require voice, Internet and data solutions. And when something goes wrong, they wont be pushed from pillar to post as one service provider blames the other for a lack of services. The reality is that if you look at the industry and where it is going, converged services are where the industry is, and where growth will come from. It made sense for us to broaden our horizons," Chislett adds.

Altech Autopage Cellular traditionally focussed on providing only GSM/mobile connectivity solutions. Now with the merger, it also offers fixed line solutions so this means that they're able to offer a much wider range of product solutions for many services such as VoIP, hosting, video conferencing, server virtualisation, channel bonding, back-ups and archiving and digital marketing so it positions them in a much stronger place in the market.

Its also able to offer clients a full range of product solutions and they only have to deal with one service provider as opposed to having to deal with a different one for mobile, fixed line, and other internet based services.

"The merger commenced in March and one of our key millstones in the integration process was the combination of our customer contact centres. This unified entity now addresses all customer interactions and has ensured consistent and in some areas improved service to our customer base. We're finally operating as one team however, our next challenge is the integration of our billing systems, as with mergers of this kind systems integration is more technical and takes more time. Soon we'll be able to send customers that one-bill to simplify their lives," Chislett concludes. "We're working on constructing a new brand identity, what this will look like is still being defined. We're currently gathering input from all our stakeholders and customers to ensure that we remain relevant and that we don't lose the equity we have built as the two separate entities over the past years. This is an exciting step for us and getting it right is our main priority, confirming exactly when this will be completed is still to be determined."

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