Local loop unbundling is currently touted as one of the major stumbling blocks holding back the liberalisation of South African telecoms – however, industry heavyweights say they have identified other factors, not reliant on ICASA’s legislations, to take telecoms forward.
“The challenges affecting SA telecoms are related to how greater competition is fostered. The next crucial steps in forcing greater competition will be to break the stronghold that incumbent operators have on the ‘last mile’ access to the customer’s end device,” says Rapelang Rabana, co-founder and CEO of Yeigo Communications and global head of research & development at the TelFree Group.
“The local loop unbundling saga, which has been on the cards for more than five years, seems highly unlikely to meet the intended deadline of November 2011,” he says. “A much easier and quicker win to open up the ‘last mile’ access is to push progress on ‘carrier pre-select’ services. Carrier pre-select is much cleaner and more sophisticated approach to give new entrants access to the ‘last mile’ infrastructure of the incumbent operators to provide telephony services.
“This would allow any service provider to be reachable from a telephony or cellular line of any of the incumbent operators by dialling a short pre-fix (such as ‘1616’) followed by the number to be reached. This would open up access to ‘last mile’ infrastructure of all the incumbent operators, not just Telkom.”
Justin Colyn, GM: fixed mobile convergence at MTN Business, adds: “It’s time for CIOs and CTOs to enable businesses to become more agile, responsive and ‘mobile’ to ensure growth and scale is attained; that business continuity is guaranteed and that all of the above factors are achieved on a diminishing budget. The only way to really achieve this, given the pace and demands of business, is to drive economies of scale through cloud computing, virtualisation, converged infrastructure & services, and collaboration. All of these need to be closely controlled and managed through proper telecommunications expense management principles.
“Given the above, the biggest change affecting the SA telecoms industry is the realisation of fixed mobile convergence which offers businesses and users the choice of working from anywhere, anytime, over any medium, using any device and interacting with anyone. The only way you can effectively achieve the flexibility and economies of scale to take advantage of what technology has to offer, is to have a cloud strategy for all your ICT requirements,” Colyn adds.
Highlighting the changes in the South African call centre industry over the last few years, Jed Hewson, director of 1stream, says that with the introduction of VoIP and more stringent financial regulations, the industry has seen a general drive to bring down costs.
“The recent deployment of fibre rings, deregulation of the telecoms industry and use of Cloud Computing has meant that the South African call centre industry can take advantage of hosted or on-demand solutions. The deployment of hosted call centres is the biggest change in the international call centre market place, and will ultimately help enable South African call centres to be more efficient and competition,” he says.
Wayne Speechly, executive: communications at Internet Solutions, notes that both technology and regulatory factors against a backdrop of changing enterprise requirements means service providers need to do things differently.
“Customers in the South African telecoms landscape are not benefitting from this ever changing environment. The industry at large needs to unite better to truly dislodge incumbents.”
These and other issues affecting the local telecoms industry will be discussed further by Rabana, Colyn, Speechly and Hewson at the second annual VoiceSA conference on 22 September – a free one-day conference and networking event that aims to facilitate open discussion and collaboration around important industry issues.