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ICASA, Telkom must work on local loop unbundling

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A call this weekend by President Thabo Mbeki to hasten the unbundling of the local loop has largely been pre-empted by a strategy document already finalised and setting out detailed steps on how to proceed.

Earlier this year, the minister of communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri gave ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of SA) a deadline of 2011 by which time the local loop unbundling needs to be completed.
Unbundling of the local loop, which would give other operators access to the copper wire infrastructure currently held exclusively by Telkom, will require a large amount of co-operation from Telkom, but also requires that ICASA proactively drive the process through effective planning and management of progress.
The Local Loop Unbundling Committee presented its recommendations earlier this year, and stressed that Telkom would need to co-operate in a number of ways.
These include making preliminary information available; allow co-location to permit new entrants to install their equipment on Telkom premises; permit connection of co-located equipment to the networks of the new entrants; and provide for inspection and monitoring of physical premises and services provided to the new entrants.
ICASA would have to find ways to motivate Telkom to co-operate, and the strategy document recommends that a delivery schedule be established the defined and binding milestones and timeframes.
ICASA would also need to determine what space is available in Telkom's premises for the co-location of other operators' equipment, as well as the structural integrity of exchange premises to ensure additional equipment can be added.
However, it would be up to ICASA to develop a detailed flow process, including all relevant issues such as space requirements, applications and collocation space.
The report stresses that local loop unbundling is a complex process and that regulation and monitoring must be firmly in place to ensure the effective implementation by both Telkom and new entrants in the process.
The committee recommends that the regulatos invite and involve Telkom and new entrants to embark on the detailed work required to produce technical and operational solutions.
The implementation of local loop unbundling should be managed in much the same ways as a complex IT project is done and requires discipline, the use of latest project management tools and adequate resources to run as a successful initiative.
It suggests that a high-level steering committe be appointed to oversee and manage the process, and the regulator publish regular progress reports to ensure openness and transparency of the process.