Telkom has launched a pilot project in Randfontein to migrate its retail ADSL customers from a copper network to “fixed-line-look-alike” services.
The project will test the viability of phasing out old and unsustainable infrastructure in areas with a digital exchange system that is nearing the end of its lifespan, said Telkom.
The Randfontein project comes two years after the company first revealed plans to shut down exchanges that were losing money.
Telkom told MyBroadband in 2014 that of its 1,900 exchanges, about 600 were profitable.
The majority of Telkom’s exchanges – around 1,000, which are not profitable but are also not losing money – will be maintained in their current state.
In the roughly 300 areas with exchanges that are making a loss, Telkom plans to replace its copper-based infrastructure with 3G or LTE.
“Telkom has already decommissioned some active legacy equipment and exchanges in its network as a part of replacing manual exchange technology with technology that can support modern telecommunication needs,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, Telkom’s head of group communications.
Why Randfontein is being migrated away from copper
Randfontein has been plagued by cable theft, resulting in poor service and a steady degradation of the copper infrastructure in the area.
“This is why we selected this area for migration to fixed-line-look-alike and other wireless access technologies,” said O’Sullivan.
It said Randfontein and several of its surrounding exchanges have been identified as suitable for a pilot project to test new access technologies and products.
“The pilot project will also asses the implications of the migration on support systems and the migrating processes.”
“The current phase of the project is primarily focussed on the migration of Telkom retail’s residential and single-line business customers who are located in the pilot area.”
Fixed-line-look-alike and other wireless services in Randfontein
Affected subscribers will be offered a wireless service that is meant to be a drop-in replacement for Telkom’s landline offering.
Customers will be given a new handset for free, will keep their existing Telkom number, and will be billed for calls as if they were being made from a landline.
However, a resident in the area contacted MyBroadband to raise concerns that he will not be able to keep his uncapped broadband service after switching to Telkom’s wireless access network.
“We are piloting this project with a view to provide quality, sustainable voice and data services and improve service levels to our customers in the area,” said O’Sullivan.
“In future, we will also be able to upgrade service offerings, particularly related to connectivity.”
This will not be possible on the existing copper access technology in the area, said Telkom.
“The information obtained during this pilot project will be analysed and the results will form the basis of any further technology replacements that the company will embark upon in future.”