The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has called on Telkom SA to allow ISPs other than Telkom Internet to participate in the recently-commenced trial to test digital subscriber line (DSL) services of 20 megabits per second (Mbps) and 40Mbps. The trial started on 3 September 2012 and is scheduled to run until 31 January 2013.
Telkom SA is a wholesale provider of DSL services to ISPs in South Africa, one of which is its own ISP, Telkom Internet. Telkom SA, as the wholesale provider, has refused requests from ISPA members to participate in the trial, raising a concern that the majority of ADSL users in South Africa will not benefit from the technical and other insights obtained into high speed DSL services.
“There is a technical difference in the way in which Telkom makes wholesale DSL services available to Telkom Internet as opposed to other ISPs obtaining the same services. While Telkom Internet has a direct link into SAIX, other ISPs are required to use the IP Connect or IPC product to take up wholesale DSL.
ISPA questions whether the trial would be capable of achieving its stated objectives of testing cost assumptions and technical issues given the narrow manner in which it is being conducted,” said ISPA regulatory advisor Dominic Cull.
Telkom SA has been reported as stating that the reasons for excluding all ISPs other than its own from the trial were technical and that they had to balance inclusion against their desired outcomes. ISPA’s position is that it must surely be a desired outcome for all DSL subscribers to be provided with upgraded services as quickly as possible and that this is an outcome which will not be achieved by testing only the direct link and not the IPC model.
“Innovation and price reductions have been led by ISPs other than Telkom Internet, and the experience of these ISPs in uncapped data provision, content management and rich media would enhance the evaluation of the new services and contribute to their successful deployment”, said Cull.
ISPA further expressed surprise that Telkom SA had adopted an exclusive approach given the recent Competition Tribunal judgement against it.
Notwithstanding that Telkom SA has indicated its intention to appeal such judgement, it is clear that both Telkom SA and the Tribunal accepted that Telkom SA’s DSL network was an “essential facility” for the purposes of the Competition Act.
“There can be little doubt that this approach will provide a competitive advantage to Telkom Internet, allowing it to obtain knowledge of the new services not available to its competitors while gaining market share in what is a highly-competitive market. While Telkom has previously expressed its commitment to enabling fair competition in the downstream services market, its conduct indicates otherwise. Our view is that this will be to the detriment of consumers, competition and innovation,” Cull concluded.