Telkom in intriguing move to open the copper local loop - TechCentral

Telkom in intriguing move to open the copper local loop

Telkom is introducing a new wholesale product for Internet service providers that will mean consumers can directly obtain a broadband service from their ISP and will no longer be required to buy a copper line from Telkom’s retail division.

In response to questions from TechCentral, Telkom said the move should not be interpreted as local-loop unbundling (LLU) – an intervention long sought by ISPs – but it appears, at the very least, to be a step in that direction. Telkom said it will provide more details in the coming days to its ISP partners.

LLU is a specific regulatory intervention, introduced in some developed markets, to break the monopoly choke-hold of former monopoly fixed-line telecoms incumbents. Typically, it involves opening the local loop of copper cables between customers’ premises and the local telephone exchange to other licensed operators, including ISPs.

The introduction of the new wholesale product comes after Telkom last year said it planned to terminate its copper-based access network in the coming years as it views copper as a legacy technology that will be replaced by fibre to the home and 4G/LTE wireless services. The copper network is also expensive to maintain.

Openserve, Telkom’s wholesale services division, said it will “wholesale its copper broadband access network through its new suite of Openserve Pure Connect products across multiple speeds”. The products will be launched with effect from 1 May.

In response to questions, Openserve CEO Althon Beukes said the new product offering is not LLU and nor is it in response to any regulatory pressure.

Covid-19

“The wholesale product is in response to the increase in demand for broadband due to Covid-19,” he said. “As a result of Covid-19, there is an immediate and urgent need to provide affordable broadband connectivity at home. This cannot only be met by the fibre expansion to the home in the short term. Our copper network provides a reliable option as we expand our fibre footprint closer to the home.”

He said Telkom will continue with the decommissioning of the copper network in areas that are not “economically viable”.

Beukes said the wholesaling of copper broadband access complements Openserve’s overall fixed-broadband strategy. “This initiative will transform the current channel, process, pricing and product sets across Openserve’s portfolio, thereby making it easier for its clients (the ISPs) to utilise, stimulate and connect the end customer on the company’s larger broadband access network.

“While Openserve continues to modernise its fixed infrastructure and upgrade its network, it believes that its current copper broadband infrastructure is well positioned to be wholesaled where it is viable and available. This will certainly cater for the increased connectivity and consumption needs by providing an affordable and reliable service to our customers. This should also further support and stimulate online business and the economy at large,” said Beukes in a statement.

“Openserve will provide further details to its clients and connectivity partners in the coming days and is confident that through its comprehensive wholesale broadband access proposition it will be able to cater for broadband connectivity and data consumption needs of the consumers.”  — © 2020 NewsCentral Media

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