Free 8 Mbps ADSL upgrades likely

It was widely reported last year that Telkom is actively trialing its planned 8 Mbps ADSL service, with some 4 Mbps ADSL subscribers reporting that their lines started syncing at 8 Mbps in November.  At the time Telkom Managing Executive Marius Mostert said that, “Telkom is currently investigating improvements to its ADSL speeds which include the possibility of upgrading the 4 Mbps offering to an 8 Mbps service.”

A firm launch date has not been released yet, but Telkom CEO Reuben September said he is keen to launch an 8 Mbps ADSL service as quickly as possible, adding that it will happen before the 2010 World Cup.  Telkom has now confirmed that they are looking at a possible March/April 2010 launch date, but that it is dependent on network upgrades which are needed to support the higher speeds.

Network upgrades

Mike Vos from Telkom SA’s Wholesale division explains that they have conducted successful 8 Mbps ADSL trials in Pretoria City Centre and in Constantia Park, and that the trials have now been extended to Cape Town. 

As part of the trials the feasibility of upgrading all 4 Mbps ADSL customers to 8 Mbps profiles was investigated, and according to Vos the results are very promising.  In the two areas selected for the trials only 1% of 4 Mbps DSL subscribers could not sync at 8 Mbps, something that bodes well for the upgrade of current ADSL subscribers.

Vos however warned that a great deal of network upgrades are needed to provide consumers with an 8 Mbps ADSL service which performs at a high level, and that only DSLAMs with the latest DSL2+ equipment and software and served by Metro Ethernet connectivity will be used to provide 8 Mbps ADSL.

Currently only around 5% to 10% of Telkom’s 4 Mbps ADSL customer base are served by such DSLAMs, but aggressive network upgrades should mean that this percentage will grow to around 30% to 40% before the end of March.  This will then make it feasibly for Telkom to start upgrading 4 Mbps subscribers to higher speeds.

There are further plans to reach 60% later in 2010, but here the 2010 FIFA World Cup may influence network upgrades as strict stipulations by FIFA prohibits some network changes from around May this year to the end of the World Cup.

Free upgrade

Good news for current 4 Mbps ADSL users is that the speed upgrade is likely to be free, and that their speeds will automatically be increased to the highest possible speed without the need to apply for the service. 

Vos explained that Telkom plans to do away with strict speed related services, and that they simply want to promise high end ADSL subscribers that they will be on the fastest speed possible.  In the case where a subscribers’ line quality is too poor to provide a stable 8 Mbps service (due to poor copper quality or the distance from the exchange), a user will be placed on the highest possible profile where a stable service can be guaranteed.

Telkom is also planning to increase uplink speeds to around 10% of the downlink speed – hence 800 Kbps in the case of and 8 Mbps ADSL service.  This will again be dependent on the subscribers’ line quality.

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Free 8 Mbps ADSL upgrades likely