The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) has called on Telkom to allow service providers other than TelkomInternet to participate in its trial to test digital subscriber line (DSL) services of 20Mbit/s and 40Mbit/s. The trial started on 3 September and is scheduled to run until 31 January.
Telkom is a wholesale provider of DSL services to ISPs in SA, one of which is its own ISP, TelkomInternet. Telkom as the wholesale provider has refused requests from Ispa members to participate in the trial, raising a concern that the majority of DSL users in SA will not benefit from the technical and other insights obtained into high-speed DSL services.
“There is a technical difference in the way in which Telkom makes wholesale DSL services available to TelkomInternet as opposed to other ISPs obtaining the same services,” says Ispa regulatory advisor Dominic Cull. “While TelkomInternet has a direct link into [Telkom’s wholesale network] Saix, other ISPs are required to use the IP Connect to take up wholesale DSL. Ispa questions whether the trial would be capable of achieving its stated objectives of testing cost assumptions and technical issues given the narrow manner in which it is being conducted.”
The association says Telkom has been reported as stating that the reasons for excluding all ISPs other than its own from the trial were technical and that they had to balance inclusion against their desired outcomes. “Ispa’s position is that it must surely be a desired outcome for all DSL subscribers to be provided with upgraded services as quickly as possible and that this is an outcome which will not be achieved by testing only the direct link and not the IPC model,” it says.
“Innovation and price reductions have been led by ISPs other than TelkomInternet, and the experience of these ISPs in uncapped data provision, content management and rich media would enhance the evaluation of the new services and contribute to their successful deployment”, says Cull.
Ispa says it is surprised that Telkom has adopted an exclusive approach given the recent Competition Tribunal judgment against it. “Notwithstanding that Telkom has indicated its intention to appeal such judgment, it is clear that both Telkom and the tribunal accepted that Telkom’s DSL network was an ‘essential facility’ for the purposes of the Competition Act,” the association says.
“There can be little doubt that this approach will provide a competitive advantage to TelkomInternet, allowing it to obtain knowledge of the new services not available to its competitors while gaining market share in what is a highly-competitive market. While Telkom has previously expressed its commitment to enabling fair competition in the downstream services market, its conduct indicates otherwise. Our view is that this will be to the detriment of consumers, competition and innovation.”
In response, Bashier Sallie, Telkom’s MD of wholesale and networks, says TelkomInternet will only be given notice of the availability and technical and commercial specifications of the wholesale product at the same time as all other licensed operators.
Sallie says Telkom has historically conducted “proof-of-concepts” and product trials with ISPs, and not always using TelkomInternet. “This is to ensure expedient testing of new network technology or services in a controlled environment,” he says. “Ispa correctly mentions that Telkom wants to balance inclusion against our desired outcomes. We believe the industry will prefer a trial that is successfully conducted in the shortest possible time.
“Given the fact that this is new technology for Telkom and the size of the high-speed broadband footprint spans 16 000 ports across four regions, this balance is crucial,” he adds. “We also need to test the integration to our IT systems and into our network management and configuration systems. The pilot will also serve to validate and test service fulfilment and assurance processes, assess field technical and operational readiness and evaluate the customer experience at a set service configuration.
“Telkom has had discussions with individual ISPs on this matter and is seeking to discuss this directly with Ispa, too. We are open to listening to proposals that will be in the interest of all parties.” — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media