Telkom has set itself a goal of changing public perceptions of the group from a fixed-line monopoly to a market leader.

The organisation already holds market dominance in its extensive telecoms infrastructure, the backbone for the country’s telecoms needs, but has acknowledged there are areas where it has left gaps for competitors to take advantage.

Brian Armstrong of Telkom’s enterprise markets division said yesterday that areas the fixed-line incumbent needed to improve included faster delivery of innovation to the market, “flawless service” and customer communication.

Telkom ran a road show two weeks ago for customers as part of efforts to revitalise the firm.

While Telkom Business had a direct relationship with 400 000 customers, it needed to deepen it and evolve products, Armstrong said.

Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx said key areas Telkom had neglected included swift roll-out of new products. For example, the slow introduction of its data product ADSL 2 left a gap for 3G operators.

Goldstuck said Telkom’s extensive 140 000km fibre-optic network still made it the dominant player.

Telkom Business plans to prioritise the roll-out of fibre to customer premises in the year ahead and launch fixed-mobile converged products and pure mobile packages for enterprises in the second half of the year.

Its enterprise unit, accounting for half of Telkom’s local business, is planning for a projected 45 percent annual growth of bandwidth demand and market trends such as convergence of voice and data.

Tertia Smit at BMI-TechKnowledge said the lack of agility of Telkom’s units provided a gap for competitors. While Telkom dominated in the corporate sector it would have to be more flexible in its consumer and small and medium enterprise offerings.

Goldstuck said Telkom needed to be transparent about its services set and pricing to counter perceptions that it was abusing its market position.

Armstrong defended the firm, saying research showed its data and voice prices were among the cheapest globally.

Spiwe Chireka of Frost & Sullivan said Telkom would always dominate as fixed lines offered more stable and reliable network performance than cellphone networks.

At the close of trade on the JSE yesterday, Telkom’s shares were at R37.63, a decline of 37c. - Business Report