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Villages call for phones

THANKS to a WA company, some South African villages will be connected to telephones for the first time.

Cape’s subsidiary Austel in Africa has finalised a joint venture with the Lubisi Dam Development Forum to manufacture base stations for the company’s portable digital phone system.

Over the past three weeks, Cape Telecoms has been piloting its first base station in the Lubisi Valley in South Africa, where there are twenty-three villages with a population of more than 80,000 – and no phones.

The first shipment of portable digital phone systems is due to leave the company’s Balcatta headquarters in October and manufacturing should start in South Africa by the end of the year.

The LDDF has only taken a 10 per cent stake in the joint venture but Cape managing director John Barnes expects greater South African involvement.

Mr Barnes said the company was carving a niche in a massive worldwide market for digital telephone services in rural and remote areas.

“Our market is the hundreds of millions of people in developing nations who don’t have a phone but understand that phone access is essential for social and economic development,” he said.

“To tap this huge market, the system has to be digital and wireless to get around the huge cost and logistics of cabling and other infrastructure.

“This also goes a long way to solving a major problem of theft of newly installed phone cable in rural areas.

“We deliver a high quality, low cost system with voice, fax, data and two-way broadcast quality video in one package.

“The enormous potential in the product is reflected in the current interest from South Africa, India and Brazil.”

Australian agency AusAid has given the LDDF Rd40,000 to educate villagers to understand and use the telephone system effectively.

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