Unitel, Angola’s first private operator, has spurred rapid growth in the telecom sector since its establishment in 2001. And it was thanks to the firm’s visionary founders who wanted to build something to last that it has been so successful.
Despite having been started from scratch, Unitel now has some 9.5 million customers and it continues to lead Angola, and much of the continent, in state-of-the-art technology, often by calling upon foreign expertise.
Last October, for example, Unitel and BICS (a Brussels-based global provider of wholesale carrier services) made the continent’s first ever 4G video roaming call, thanks to the 4G LTE service Unitel had launched in 2012 – well ahead of many of the world’s more developed markets.
The history-making video call was made in the presence of Princess Astrid of Belgium while she was on an official state visit to Angola.
“This agreement with BICS will allow us to offer our customers an entirely new range of quality services when abroad. It will also allow visitors in Angola to roam on Unitel’s network with a very high speed,” says Amílcar Safeca, Unitel’s Deputy CEO and Chief Technology Officer.
Three months later, the Angolan telecom giant along with Ericsson demonstrated Africa’s first LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation (LTE-A) technology. At the event Mr Safeca said: “Unitel is happy to partner with Ericsson on this project. This contract includes a programme of knowledge transfer, increasing the competence of our staff and ensuring that we are able to maintain and develop our high-level end-user experience. With this demo, we are well on the way to launching the most advanced mobile network in Angola and perhaps Africa in the near future.”
|Working in partnership with global experts such as Sweden’s Ericsson and Brussels-based BICS, Unitel is bringing the latest in |
hi-tech telecom to Africa
Unitel’s ever-growing network is also benefitting from an investment of some $1.35 billion over the period 2013-2015, which should help further increase national coverage.
The firm’s commitment to customer care prompted it to create the Unitel Training Academy, which ensures the professionalism of its more than 2,000 employees and prepares them for climbing the ladder to better positions within the company.
“There are employees that started as shop assistants but today are part of the company’s board of directors,” says Mr Safeca.
“That is only possible thanks to our opportunity policy of investing in training and in young, entrepreneurial spirit.”
A strong sense of corporate social responsibility is also firmly entrenched in the company.
“Since the very the first day, we engaged ourselves in giving back to the community by supporting those in need, promoting donations in communities where we open new shops, and supporting projects that encourage education,” says Mr Safeca.
“Our E-Net project, for example, is making it possible for kids to access the internet for free in secondary schools.”
With 4G, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS and GSM technology already under its belt, Unitel has recently entered a new era with Tony Dolton at the helm.
The British engineer, who became CEO last September, brings with him more than 12 years of experience in the sector, having served as chief technology officer at Vodafone Egypt and Vodafone Ghana, and Motorola’s director of services in sub-Saharan Africa.