Ask anyone to recommend an Internet service provider in Botswana, and they’ll almost certainly tell you BTC (Botswana Telecommunications Corporation), yet there are countless others available. This does not necessarily mean BTC is the best service provider. I honestly believe it’s because it’s the oldest, most well known provider in Botswana. Established in 1980, for a very long time, BTC was the only telecoms service provider, so I guess people naturally gravitate towards it as the obvious choice.
You would also think that because they’ve been in the market the longest, it goes without saying that we they’ve ‘cornered the market’, honed their customer service delivery skills to a superior and unrivaled status, that they stand heads and shoulders above all other providers. Eh, I’m afraid you’d be way off the mark! I would urge you, even implore you to shop around, ask questions and make comparisons before you settle on any one of the Internet providers in Botswana.
Not to burst anyone’s bubble; but to be blunt, the quality of the Internet in Botswana generally leaves a lot to be desired. A few years ago I returned to Botswana after living in England for 13 years. We’ve since changed Internet providers twice and are now on our third, all under five years.
I’m no expert and don’t feel I’m best placed to explain where the issue lies, but I gather it’s something to do with the bandwidth not being adequate to service the demand. This is baffling because with a population of just over 2-million, only a fraction of that figure can afford the Internet!
I have found out there are over thirty Internet providers in Botswana. So to help you choose your Internet provider, please see below for honest reviews of the three service providers we have used so far.
Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC)
Arguably the biggest and most widely used provider, BTC was established in 1980. When we first arrived from England, this is the first service provider we used. In all honesty, it wasn’t even our first choice. We’d asked around, and VBN came in highly recommended. Sadly, their service didn’t extended to where we live (Tlokweng). I guess Tlokweng is classed as being out in the sticks, although it’s on the fringes of Gaborone.
To say we were sorely disappointed in the BTC offer would be putting it very, very lightly.
The big issue with BTC is the lack of customer service or very shoddy customer service. Based solely on the quality and speed of the Internet, it generally works fine when it’s working. That is, it’s not the most brilliant, but not the worst out there either. However, there are times when you wake up to find the dreaded red dot indicating no Internet, and you just know you’re going to be without the internet indefinitely. The Internet outages tend to come about during heavy downpours, thunder, lightening and strong gales of wind. Individually (or worse still, collectively) these weather conditions often translate to power outages and by extension, the Internet.
The frustrating thing here is that BTC doesn’t take its responsibility as the provider to communicate this to their customer. The lack of communication is very ironic because by virtue of them being a telecommunications company, you’d think it would be the one area where they’d excel! Sadly, BTC is more reactive than proactive.
When you call, getting through to a customer service agent can take forever. Meantime, while on hold, you’re ‘treated’ to automated sales pitches ranging from how you can buy BTC shares through to a range of their products and rates.
What baffles me is if they can take the time and energy to set all this up, why can’t they be bothered to leave an automated message advising customers of the ongoing fault, what they believe the problem to be, what they’re doing to address it and how soon they expect to have resolved the issue. Or like a lot of other local providers, they could send mass SMS (text) messages to their customers.
What’s more, if on the rare occasion you are lucky enough to get a call from BTC, there are no follow-ups whatsoever. I suspect what the agents are doing is just going through a tick list, just so they can say they did call, never mind the fact that your issue may never have been resolved. Worse still, if you call to chase an existent fault, more often than not you’ll find it’s been closed, suggesting someone made contact and resolved the issue!
Customer Service is yet another issue at BTC. But credit where it’s due; the Riverwalk branch is fantastic. The staff are always courteous and more than happy to help. I would even go so far as to suggest BTC head office uses their Riverwalk to benchmark, and have even said the same thing to the staff at Riverwalk.
Many of the staff at the main mall branch (head office) are miserable, while a few others are blatantly rude. A visit to this branch can leave you exasperated, upset, frustrated and disappointed all at the same time. There are however, a few outstanding members of staff, who are always happy to help with a smile. The gentleman who at the billing counter truly deserves a pat on the back because he’s consistently courteous and helpful. He can usually be seen working tirelessly while a few of his colleagues are standing in the background talking, seemingly not doing anything, which looks rather unprofessional.
Another person who deserves a mention is Charles Modisenyane, who’s actually a Business Manager. Daniel has on more than on occasion gone the extra mile to help us when we found ourselves at the end of our tether with BTC, irrespective of the fact that as residential clients we fell outside of his remit. He never complained or tried to fob us off, instead working with us until our issues at the were resolved
There’s also a Customer Service Manager at head office, who’s very easy accessible. To her credit, she does listen and empathise. However, as far as I could tell, her hands were tied and there was only so much she could do. In my opinion, the little she could do falls way short of what BTC should be able to do to improve delivery.
Overall Verdict- scores out of 5
Customer Service – 1.5 at best
Communication – 2
Service Delivery – 3 on a good day, 0 at its worst
Would I recommend BTC?
In the here and now; if I did, I would advise people to go with BTC with extreme caution. I strongly believe that because BTC monopolized the industry for years and years, they were able to ‘corner the market’ and are now entrenched in people’s minds as one of the national treasures. I think off the back of this, they became very complacent and sloppy and lost sight of what it takes to be a good service provider. I can only hope they work towards recapturing the spirit of ‘botho’ and good service delivery, because otherwise people may just gradually start opting for the competition in their droves.
OPQ Net: A Review
After the fiasco that was BTC, we decided to start asking around for recommendations for decent Internet providers. We were convinced that after the experience we had with BTC, no other Internet provider could be worse.
Settling on OPQ Net, we set up a meeting to find out exactly what they had to offer. The meeting went swimmingly; with the staff being very helpful, smiley and seemingly knowledgeable. We were blown away by OPQ’s promise of a much faster and more stable Internet service. I mean, we just couldn’t wait to be rid of BTC in order to start with OPQ. However, we decided to test the waters as opposed to diving straight it. So we didn’t terminate our contract with BTC just yet, which retrospectively proved to be a very wise move.
Off the back of the warm reception and fantastic promises, we wasted no time signing up for a year’s contract with OPQ. However, no sooner had we signed up with OPQ than everything started going downhill! At this stage I knew it was bad when even BTC started looking like the better option! I was ecstatic that although we were paying two Internet providers, we could fall back on BTC because the Internet with OPQ was at best slow, and at worst non-existent.
Efforts to call OPQ to bring this to their attention proved almost impossible. We were surprised to find that where before OPQ was very easy to get hold of, suddenly they were nowhere to be found! Curiously, they seemed very prompt in sending the bill. Two weeks into our contract, we were ready to part ways with them. Frustrated at not being able to get hold of anyone on the phone, I sent an email threatening to terminate our contract if nobody came to sort out the issues we were experiencing.
That worked a treat because a team was dispatched to us within 24 hours of sending the email! However, that was the extent of the good news, because the technicians were clueless. They did their troubleshooting with my husband’s help and concluded ours was a rather unique problem, and quite frankly, they had no idea whatsoever how to resolve the problem! When I asked them what they thought the best way forward would be, again, they didn’t know.
Naturally, that meant that we could not possibly continue with OPQ. We fed this back to the office, and again they were lost as to how to resolve our problem. So 2 weeks after we signed up with OPQ, we terminated our contract with them and went back to the drawing board. Meantime, we were still with BTC, which weirdly enough, had improved in terms of speed, quality and overall performance!
Overall Verdict- scores out of 5
Customer Service – 5 (before signing up), 0 after signing up
Communication – 5 (before signing up), 0 after signing up
Service Delivery – 0.5 on a good day, 0 at its worst
Would I recommend OPQ Net?
The simple answer is never. My friendly advise to OPQ Net would be to never make promises they can’t keep. I’d say to them not to focus so much on securing the customer, only to neglect their retention. There’s nothing wrong with being honest with a customer and telling them you don’t know the answer to their problem, and then working to find ways through which to resolve those problems. Even if you do fail to resolve them, as long as you remain courteous and professional; even if you part ways, you can walk away with the satisfaction of knowing you did the very best for that customer. But we walked away on a sour note, and there was what felt like a distinctly frosty front emanating from their end. OPQ definitely made BTC look like a very favourable option.
After we parted ways with OPQ Net, we realised we couldn’t get rid of BTC just yet, or at least until we’d found a replacement. To cut a long story short, we initially started with Microtek because one of the owners sought us out, after seeing some posts we’d submitted on the Botswana Name and Shame Facebook page. The Name and Shame page, as the name suggests, is a platform through which consumers air their grievances about various services they receive in Botswana. Microtek contacted us off the back of the Facebook posts about our struggle to find a good Internet provider in Botswana.
The person we spoke to offered us a free month’s trial, which straight away impressed us because that sort of thing very rarely happens in Botswana. It also made us think the company must be really confident in their offer to do this with us. What it really was, and they were upfront about it; it was a trial run for a new initiative. In short we were their guinea pigs for their imminent residential offer, because all along they’d only provided the Internet to corporate clients. Well, we loved the idea, especially because we were still paying BTC for our Internet.
MicroTeck promised the fastest 4G Internet speed in Botswana. Over the next month, we enjoyed the best Internet access we’d ever accessed in Botswana. The customer service was impeccable too, and we could get hold of someone whenever we called. We just couldn’t believe our luck and promptly signed up for a two-year contract.
About six months on and sadly, the bubble burst! The speed and quality in general deteriorated. It didn’t happen overnight; it got progressively worse from the point that the trial period ended. For a time, every single day the Internet was very up and down, going from zero to 100 all through the day. The customer service also went south, as we could never get hold of anyone. When we were lucky enough to speak to someone, they often promised to call back, but never did. As far as emailing is concerned, we very, very rarely got a response.
However, towards the end of 2016 things picked up again and improved for the better. Overall, the quality and speed are miles better. The Internet doesn’t go down due to the weather conditions. MicroTeck 4G is the most consistent out of the ones we’ve used so far.
I can only attribute the dip in service to teething problems. We understand from MicroTeck that they are continuing to fine-tune the residential offer. So based on that, we can only hope that we continue to see an improvement.
We are currently content with MicroTeck, but wish there was a dedicated customer service or helpdesk number to call each time we need them. You can call in during the week, but there’s no contact at the weekend. We’re grateful that we have the contact details of the person who introduced us to MicroTeck. It’s a bit cheeky to contact him each time we have a problem, but otherwise there’d be nobody else for us to call.
Overall Verdict- scores out of 5
Customer Service – 3.5 (5 with our contact)
Communication – 3.5 (5 with our contact)
Service Delivery – 4
*Even on a bad day, MicroTeck remains the best option for us.
Would I recommend MicroTeck?
I would definitely recommend MicroTeck, and have already done so to a few of our friends. We’re content with the Internet quality and speed. However, there are days when it can be intermittent. It very rarely disappears altogether, and so far we’ve only had one outage. That’s in 1 year of using them.
What I would suggest to MicroTeck is to set up a dedicated customer service support helpline that operates Sunday to Sunday. It doesn’t even have to be a 24/7 support service. To continue in this fashion; where to get something sorted out we have to go through a senior member of stuff who has nothing to do with customer service, can potentially hurt the company. Customers like to feel valued, and also to believe they are getting good value for their money. If they feel they are neglected, they will take their custom elsewhere.
In terms of pricing, BTC is the cheapest out of the three, while MicroTeck is the most expensive. However, the margins are negligible and the little bit extra that you pay MicroTeck is more than worth it for the convenience and quality.
Do you reside in Botswana, which ISP do you recommend?