Kathy Gibson reports from SATNAC 2015 – Telkom will begin the long-awaited process of local loop unbundling (LLU), but challenges the mobile telecommunications operators to come to the party.
Sipho Maseko, group CEO of Telkom, tells delegates at the South African Telecommunications and Network Applications Conference (SATNAC) that the challenge of achieving the National Development Plan and SA Connect lies with the issue of access.
He believes the country is at an inflection point and the industry has a duty to ensure universal access to the Internet in the next few  years.
“We have already begun to reduce the price of access and are bringing down the barriers to entry,” he says.
“In addition, we are aware of the turmoil relating to LLU regulations,” he adds. “In the past we would have opposed them – but now we want to be a much more open operator.”
To this end, Telkom will open up, on a trial basis, 200 of its exchanges, paving the way for a much more open approach to access.
“Opening these exchanges is in line with government commitment ot an open access regime,” Maseko says. “We will ensure that this approach lets us realise the right outcomes.”
However, he says, Telkom cannot make open access happen on its own.
“In the light of this decision to open up our exchanges, we call for some kind of reciprocation from the mobile operators,” Maseko says. “If we are to overcome the mobile deficit, there needs to be wholesale mobile access to the local loop.
“This is an imperative and an important precursor to the democratisation of broadband.”
The new open access world needs to be underpinned by a regulatory framework that offers certainty in that it won’t change, Maseko adds.
“We need to start thinking about the modernising the regulatory framework to address entities that operate outside the regulatory framework, such as the over the top (OTT) operators and the content players.
“It is important that the balance is restored that allows the whole ecosystem to play their part.”
Maseko also calls on the regulator to make more spectrum available, especially in the sub-1Gb range that will enable broadband in rural areas – and where Telkom currently doesn’t have any spectrum allocation.
“It is imperative that we adopt conditions where we can harmonise the use of spectrum to ensure maximum socio.