Telkom’s CEO Sipho Maseko will be hailed – at least by consumers – as the man who finally started making the company innovate. This weekend, in a column for the Sunday Times, he wrote that by next year the telecommunications operator would offer a flat-rate service that offers digital video, voice calls, and internet access – also known as a triple play offering.
In other markets triple play offerings have been around for a number of years. Kenya is a notable example in Africa. There, residents in Nairobi have access to fibre connections that offer all three services for a single price – and yes, it’s uncapped.
Maseko writes that the company has made “measurable progress in the past year”, but highlights that work still needs to be done to get to his stated goal. He details some of the progress that’s been made, which includes new management, and a move to separate its operations into wholesale and retail businesses. This will ensure that the consumer-facing side of Telkom can step up its game, while ISPs can be better served by a more focussed wholesale division.
Telkom has invested heavily in its physical network over the last few years. Major metropolitan areas have had their ADSL exchanges upgraded to MSAN (Multi Service Access Nodes), which currently support VDSL speeds of 20Mbps and 40Mbps. These are also capable of supporting higher speeds of up to 100Mbps over fibre. The implementation of newer technologies could effectively leapfrog faster ADSL speeds in lesser-developed areas. Users there could see jumps from 2 or 4Mbps lines, directly to 40Mbps or faster links, with multimedia service offerings.
Video is one way to make better use of a faster internet connection. High-speed links can effectively and reliably support streaming video services, and it’s been rumoured that Telkom – among others – is in talks with American streaming provider Netflix. It’s also possible that local media rights holders could take advantage of the faster internet speed and launch their own streaming solutions.
Maseko’s column did rail against ICASA’s continued attempts to have local loop unbundling enforced. Telkom’s been resistant to this change, and Maseko writes that, “The problem is that LLU will discourage investment in the sector – which wouldn’t be desirable in a country where teledensity — the number of fixed lines in service — is only 7%.”
Local loop unbundling will let ISPs get access to Telkom’s copper and fibre infrastructure, as well as expand on it to offer users services. Maseko says that LLU has no place in today’s market, especially with a concentration on faster wireless access speeds.