To foster competition in telecommunications, it’s important that local-loop unbundling does not apply only to the fixed access lines owned by Telkom. It must also be extended to the mobile operators.
That’s the view of MWeb CEO Rudi Jansen, who was speaking to TechCentral in Cape Town on Monday.
Jansen is due to present MWeb’s views on local-loop unbundling to industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“They must treat the mobile operators in exactly the same way as Telkom,” Jansen says. “There is no reason the wireless local loop shouldn’t be unbundled. What the mobiles charge Internet service providers to get access to their last mile is ridiculous.”
However, Jansen believes there should be a phased approach to unbundling. If there’s a big-bang introduction, it could do more harm than good, he says. The effect would be to concentrate the broadband digital subscriber line (DSL) market in the hands of the largest players, leaving smaller service providers vulnerable. “These players create competition and quite a few jobs in the sector.”
For now, Icasa ought to focus on creating “naked DSL”, where the line rental and DSL rental charges are separated, and on reducing the Internet Protocol Connect (IPC) fees Telkom charges for service providers to access its last-mile network.
“Let’s rather do unbundling properly, but in the meantime bring down the cost of the IPC, give naked DSL and get the wireless guys to open their networks,” Jansen says. “We’ll get a lot of innovation just by doing that.”
Over time, he adds, Icasa can go through the process of unbundling the local loop fully. “Trying to rush it now is not going to do anyone any favours. There’s just too much to risk to do it big bang.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral