Two years after legislation around local loop unbundling was tabled, ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of SA) is consulting with Telkom, the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) and other stakeholders about the unbundling process.
The regulator has also appointed international consultants to help guide its thinking about this critical regulatory intervention.
These steps will breathe new life into the local loop unbundling process, says William Stucke, ISPA management committee member. The ISPA has welcomed the new, positive steps being taken towards drafting regulations for local loop unbundling.
Says Stucke: "Local loop unbundling is critical to creating a competitive telecoms market in a country where one company, namely Telkom, still controls most of the fixed-line local loop. Telkom's continued control over most of this vital piece of infrastructure is an obstacle to true competition in the market."
Unbundling of the local loop is a regulatory process where multiple telecoms providers are allowed to use connections from the telephone exchange's central office to the customer's premises.
If this issue is quickly resolved, ISPs will have greater scope to bring competition into the local loop for the first time and will enjoy more power in negotiating wholesale pricing. This will, in turn, result in lower telecoms costs for end-users.
"We welcome the positive steps that ICASA has taken to drive the unbundling process. ISPA sees this Department of Communications-led initiative as a vital intervention towards reducing the cost of communications in South Africa so that businesses can be more competitive on the global stage and so that communications become more affordable for consumers," says Stucke.
The ISPA is also thanking Telkom for its willingness to engage in the local loop unbundling discussion in an open manner and positive spirit, he adds.
"ISPA is happy with the progress that the telecoms industry has made towards true competition in the past six months. The regulator seems to be taking the industry's concerns seriously, especially around areas like local loop unbundling and licence fees," says Stucke.
"Once the last few obstacles to true competition in the market are removed, our members are all eager to start transforming the market to make it more open and competitive to the benefit of consumers and businesses."