Unbundling the local loop, the “last mile” of copper cables that connect consumers to Telkom’s telephone exchanges, will not promote increased access to fixed-line broadband services.
This is according to an oral submission Telkom delivered at hearings at the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on Thursday.
Communications minister Roy Padayachie announced last month that he wanted the local loop unbundled within a year in order to promote competition in the telecommunications industry. Government owns 39,8% of Telkom.
Though Telkom says it’s “not against” the unbundling process, it says it is unlikely to promote increased access in underserviced areas.
It also suggests Icasa look for other methods of promoting broadband access.
These could include the use of wireless technologies, which Telkom says are more efficient and cheaper to roll out into rural areas.
Telkom says allowing other companies access to its copper infrastructure will only benefit areas of the country that are already well covered.
The operator says even if the infrastructure were to be made available, other companies would not use the opportunity to take on what it terms “less profitable” areas.
Maintaing the local loop costs a fortune, Telkom says. The infrastructure is provided “below cost”, and Telkom is trying to cross subsidise these costs by selling additional voice minutes and other services.
“Local-loop unbundling is a prehistoric issue. It had its time and place,” the company says.
However, Icasa hit back at Telkom at the hearings, saying it does not appear as if the operator understands the value of the local loop and is therefore now more inclined to proceed with the unbundling process. — Candice Jones, TechCentral