Telkom has announced that 38 000 homes were given access to fibre by the end of August 2015 and 1 317 LTE sites added to the network. The company will double the fibre rollout to 70 000 homes by December 2015 and will have capacity to connect 150 000 homes by March 2016 and 500 000 by December 2016. By 2018, Telkom says, it will have provided access for one million homes to connect to fibre.
In his address to delegates attending the Southern African Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) in Hermanus, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said Telkom is committed to democratising broadband access. “We have set ourselves the objective of contributing to transforming the South African economy. South Africa is a developing democracy. We want to accelerate this development,” said Maseko.
While Telkom’s fibre rollout for large metropolitan areas will continue, the company is working with government to provide broadband to under-serviced areas.
At the same time, there must be a recognition that the digital divide is alive and well in South Africa. “We must recognise that the issue of access lies at the heart of the divide. You either have access or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. To cross the digital divide, you must provide universal access,” said Maseko.
Telkom has already begun reducing wholesale prices in order to bring down the cost to communicate and has launched a 1Mbit DSL service to reduce the barriers to broadband access.
Earlier this year, Telkom alluded to the potential for it to become an open-access operator. The company today confirmed that it will open copper access at 200 exchanges on a trial basis, thus effectively paving the way for a more open access approach, depending on the outcome of the trial. Telkom is committed to the establishment of an open-access regime for the entire industry to realise South Africa’s objectives.
Maseko called on mobile operators to join Telkom to bridge the digital divide. “If we are to overcome the access deficit, and in light of the mobile revolution and the benefits this has engendered, South Africa needs to see wholesale access to the mobile local loop and active sharing of the radio access network. This is an imperative and an important precursor for democratising broadband,” said Maseko.
South Africa requires decisive, unambiguous action to ensure its competitiveness, he said. It also needs fair access to spectrum, in particular Sub-1 Ghz, for rural coverage and good indoor coverage in urban areas. Maseko noted that this is particularly true for Telkom, the only mobile operator without Sub-1 Ghz spectrum. Maseko called on South Africa’s telecoms regulator to consider its spectrum strategy to allow for fairer distribution of spectrum.
In order to make broadband access meaningful, South Africa should also reconsider import duties which limit broader access to affordable smart devices costing less than R1 000.
“As a nation we’ve done some pretty remarkable things. We can do so again. I believe we are at an inflection point. History will judge us one day on how we – government, operators, academia, the regulators and original equipment manufacturers – have used our collective resources to bring about sustainable change and economic development by bringing broadband to our people,” concluded Maseko.