The Open Access Network (OAN) model has been adopted to a major extent in the telecommunications sectors of many parts of the developed world and should be implemented in South Africa.
This is the view of Muneer Adam, project engineer for EES Africa who explains that the OAN model allows multiple service providers to compete over the same network, and in so doing eradicates the monopoly of the telecommunication sector.

Adam says that the South African government is currently implementing the local loop unbundling process of the telecommunication monopoly holder, Telkom.

“In the context of an OAN model, the roles of the service provider and the network owner are separated,” he says. “The service providers obtain access to the network and the end customers according to fair and non-discriminatory conditions,The model promotes a high level of competition and maximises freedom of choice for the end users.”

OANs separate the passive infrastructure from the active infrastructure in the telecommunication network. The passive infrastructure on which services reside and are delivered are usually called the physical layer, which includes Fibre to the Home (FTTH), optical splitters, manholes, fibre optical cable etc.

The active infrastructure is the service layer which communication service providers and Internet service providers access in order to provide retail services to end customers over the network.

According to research conducted by the DGMT Murray Trust: “The low penetration of fixed broadband in South Africa is reflective of the high prices and lack of competitiveness in the fixed-line broadband market dominated by Telkom.  This could be a reason for the superior uptake of mobile broadband in South Africa, and hence more competitive pricing in the mobile broadband market.”

This research further supports the need to fast-track implementation of the OAN model in South Africa, says Adam.  This will, in particular, benefit sectors such smaller commercial players wanting to gain access to telecommunication infrastructure on equitable terms, and Government organisations wanting to improve access to ICT for poor communities in order to stimulate economic growth.

He says that EES Africa has been involved in the design of the Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) architecture for several residential development precincts in South Africa.  This design is based on the OAN business model.  A sub-entity will be formed by the estate development company which will take sole ownership of the physical fibre optic passive network and will act as the network owner. Several service providers will be offered the opportunity to provide broadband services to residents of these precincts or to other communication operators.