Openserve, Telkom’s new wholesale division, is going to launch pilot projects to provide entrepreneurs with an ISP (Internet Service Provider) in a box to on sell connectivity to the end user as part of its ambitious strategy to create community-based ISPs. By Gugu Lourie
Telkom on Tuesday announced the much-awaited establishment of Openserve, which is aimed at increasing broadband access in the country through open access on its network and increase competitiveness of smaller players.
Explaining the concept of Openserve and what it means to the small medium enterprises (SMEs) market, MD Alphonzo Samuels said the ultimate aim is to bring down the cost of communicating.
“My vision is that we build the capability to establish a lot of what I would like to call ‘community-based ISPs’,” Samuels told TechFinancials.co.za in an interview at the launch of Openserve at the Turbine Hall in Newtown on Tuesday.
“I want to go to Alexandra, Soweto, Thembisa, Mamelodi, Khayelitsha, Mannenburg, Phoenix, KwaMashu and say to people is there a model I can get community-based people on board. We train them. We give them a service provider or ISP in the box and they are able on sell connectivity to people.”
Samuels said the new Telkom division would in the next few months focus on innovative building blocks and “a lot of work around community-based ISPs. We are going to come up with interesting pilots”.
Telkom’s rebranding and spinning off its wholesale business is similar to UK’s BT, which created a standalone wholesale business known as Openreach, which comprises the infrastructure unit of BT Group.
Openserve will be rolling out its high-speed fibre-to-the-home service available on an open access basis to all licensed operators.
It will also offer competitive prices in the market. Countrywide broadband access, be a best open access provider.
This will make Openserve an open-access network provider.
“We cannot afford to have this infrastructure competition. What we need is service competition,” explains Samuels, citing Openserve’s unique, unrivaled fixed line network, which include a 147 000 km fibre network across the country.
Furthermore, Telkom has been designated as a lead agency for the SA Connect initiative, which is aimed at rolling out a countrywide broadband.
Samuels said Openserve wants to “leverage Telkom’s designation as a lead agency for SA Connect. The SA Connect portion of people being connected on the open access; that responsibility we want to take.”
South Africa is also planning to issue new licences for wireless broadband spectrum. In a Government Gazette, published on 11 September 2015, the country’s communications watchdog – ICASA – proposes that spectrum allocation should be conducted via an auction process.
The watchdog says it will auction 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6 GHz bands to enhance competition and to increase broadband coverage. Such a move would bridge the digital divide and remove broadband networks disparities between urban and rural areas.
“What’s going to happen with this spectrum? … we don’t know. There is an open access portion … why can’t I leverage some of the existing operating model, bring new products portfolio to the market, use my ubiquity, use my scale to become the best open access service provider?” asks Samuels.
“Whether it is Vodacom, MTN, Dimension Data, Internet Solutions why can’t I get all the people on our network and move competition to the service layers?
“If I play my cards right I can get as many people into my network.”
At present, South Africa’s fixed line telephone teledensity is low. The fixed mobile substitution had its place, but now it’s time to move customers to broadband.
“I will not rest until a Gogo somewhere is able to sit on Skype and be able to speak and see a grandchild either in Jo’burg or in London,” says Samuels.
Openserve plans were welcomed by Siyabonga Cwele, the Minsiter of Telecommunications and Postal Services, saying an open-access environment could create space for black industrialists in the telecoms space.
“An open-access environment could create space for the emergence of black industrialist in ICT”.