Tellumat Electronic Manufacturing recently won a R7 million contract for the supply of FM radio transmitters to the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC).
The deal is Tellumat’s fifth successful tender to the country’s state broadcaster since 2007. In all cases, it has sub-contracted the services of Cape-based Broadcast Solutions Electronics (BSE) to design and manufacture the transmitters, as well as to supply and install them. This association between the two companies has seen them deliver more than 40 transmitters to TBC, and 28 more to private radio stations in Tanzania.
BSE’s roots can be traced to Plessey Broadcasting, a division of Plessey SA before the latter became Tellumat. The unit staged a management buyout in 1999, and began trading as BSE. In 2007 it won a tender to supply TBC with FM transmitters (18 in total, of 2 kW capacity each, across nine major sites). The company put Tellumat forward as the main contractor, based on its proven contract management skills and its ability to step into the breach should manufacturing volumes exceed BSE’s capacity.
The deal was followed by identical contracts for three more sites. All of them stipulated the supply, installation and commissioning of two transmitters per transmission site (one for each co-located radio station), mounting racks, combiners and feeder cables from satellite receiving equipment. The latest (fifth) deal, for nine smaller sites (18 transmitters) goes one step further by also requesting 20 metre towers. “High sites have not yet been identified outside the cities in question, so TBC is using smaller towers as interim measures,” says Peter Bacon, director of BSE.
The contract also stipulates a somewhat shorter timeline than usual (four months instead of six, from signature to commissioning). “With elections looming in September, the date was brought forward,” says Murison Kotzé, managing executive of Tellumat Electronic Manufacturing. “We do not expect problems with manufacturing equipment, importing gear, assembling it and sea-freighting it to Dar es Salaam. Customs clearance is not within our control, but we are confident that it will be processed promptly, so that we can proceed to install the equipment,” he says.
BSE’s transmitters are designed to withstand Africa’s harsh conditions, including hot weather and fluctuating power supply. The company offers built-in transient protection in its FM transmitter units, which detect harmful low voltage and spikes and initiate automatic shutdown to protect equipment. According to Bacon: “The heat in Africa can be unbelievable. We designed the equipment not to overheat, using more efficient heatsink and amplifier stage designs.” By comparison, he says, European equipment cannot cope, one more reason for BSE and Tellumat’s successes in Tanzania.
The companies have also jointly marketed to South Africa’s Sentech, BBC in the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, Algeria and Ghana. In addition, BSE equipment is exported all over the world, including the USA, the Far East, Saudi Arabia and Australia – while employing a mere 20 staff.
Bacon explains that BSE designs and assembles its circuit boards and transmitter systems. It imports raw components and contracts out much of its mechanical assembly locally. Also, it does not produce in high volumes, preferring to outsource in such cases, and makes use of Tellumat’s contract management expertise.