Dimension Data division Internet Solutions is hoping for clarity and certainty from the local-loop unbundling (LLU) framework document that the communications regulator will publish in the Government Gazette next week but has reservations about how much ground the document will cover.
On Wednesday, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) will publish its unbundling framework document that is meant to outline how rival telecommunications operators and Internet service providers will be able to access the “last mile” of Telkom’s copper cable network into homes and businesses.
The intervention may also be extended to the wireless operators’ local loops, but mobile players have lobbied strongly against this intervention.
With the exception of Telkom, all major industry players have argued in hearings with Icasa that unbundling the copper local loop is essential to drive down prices, foster competition and new market entrants, and drive innovation in the sector.
In its most recent discussion document, published ahead of recent public hearings, Icasa proposed four models for the process, from the least comprehensive but easiest to implement — namely, “bitstream” access — to full unbundling. Bitstream access means Telkom’s rivals aren’t given direct access to the copper local loop but are still given more direct access to end users.
Siyabonga Madyibi, executive for regulatory affairs at Internet Solutions, says the service provider hopes bitstream access, which allows other operators wholesale access to Telkom’s “last mile” of copper, is comprehensively addressed.
“Given the short amount of time Icasa has had to deal with the issue of LLU since the last round of public discussions, we hope its framework addresses phase one of the process, namely bitstream,” says Madyibi.
“Though the discussion document spoke to all four phases of LLU, we don’t think the regulator has had enough time to give due and proper consideration to all four to ensure the implementation will be smooth.”
Madyibi says there is a view, generally share in the industry, that, by the end of November, bitstream will have been implemented.
Former communications minister Roy Padayachie had originally set a deadline of the end of November for unbundling to have taken place; now it seems unlikely that anything substantial will happen with the process before next year.
He believes it is unlikely Icasa will extend the scope of unbundling beyond bitstream access, at least in the short term.
“As we’ve seen elsewhere in the world, LLU is a complicated process that has to be unpacked carefully so that the industry can implement it without Telkom running rings around the process.”
He says efforts to deal with the other three models of LLU might create legislation “that speaks to everything but doesn’t allow for implementation without serious hiccups”.
Madyibi says Internet Solutions will be satisfied if Icasa “just deals with bitstream access, and deals with it properly, rather than trying to deal with everything and achieving nothing”. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
- Subscribe to our free daily newsletter
- Follow us on Twitter or on Google+ or on Facebook
- Visit our sister website, SportsCentral (still in beta)