Mike Brown, MD of wireless telecommunications operator Broadlink, has come a long way from his place of birth in Chingola in Zambia’s copper belt.

Brown, 44, who spent the early part of his career at electronics group Nashua, is hoping to build Broadlink, a subsidiary of WBS Holdings in which he holds a minority stake, into a significant alternative infrastructure operator in the business market in SA.

The company, started two years ago, and which has been operating very much below the radar until now, provides wireless alternatives to corporate leased lines and resells its products through service providers like MTN Business, Business Connexion and Vox Telecom.

Brown’s parents, both British, left Zambia when he was very young to return to the UK. But within a couple of years the family came back to Africa, this time SA, and Brown began his schooling here, first in Westville, outside Durban, and then, from grade 2, in Johannesburg.

A long-time Blue Bulls supporter — he’s ecstatic that his team has made it into the Currie Cup final after beating Western Province in the semis — Brown matriculated at Bryanston High School and then went straight into the army for two years, completing his national service at Heidelberg.

In 1988, after a brief stint at First National Bank, Brown joined Nashua as a salesman. He’d stayed there for the next 19 years, working his way up to the board as marketing director and later building the Nashua Broadband business, which was eventually folded into Nashua Mobile.

Brown, who has an MBA from Oxford Brookes University — he completed his degree part-time while at Nashua — says he’s hardly had time to take a break, never mind play his favourite sport, golf, since he left Nashua in 2007 and formed Broadlink with his friend Thami Mtshali, the chairman of WBS Holdings.

Broadlink, which is a sister company to wireless broadband provider iBurst, has signed up about 400 clients since launch two years ago. Though it’s focused primarily on delivering communications wirelessly (typically through high-frequency microwave links), Broadlink is also investing in fibre infrastructure and has bought metropolitan-area links from Dark Fibre Africa.

“It’s been nice to set up a business from scratch, to watch the people grow with it,” says Brown.

Now that the company is off the ground and turning a profit, Brown, who is divorced with one daughter, Megan, 13, says he’s looking forward to spending more time on the golf course.

Duncan McLeod, TechCentral