The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has missed its own deadline of ensuring that a true bitstream product is introduced in South Africa by 1 November 2012 as part of its Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) project.
Bistream access will provide Internet service providers (ISPs) with more freedom over their own ADSL network, and bring potential cost savings.
ICASA previously said that it expects bitstream to increase margins available to internet service providers, stimulating innovation and increased investment.
According to feedback from local ISPs, they are not aware of the introduction of a commercial bitstream service. This points to yet another missed deadline from South Africa’s telecoms regulator.
It is currently not clear why this deadline was missed, and why ICASA has not pro-actively communicated the developments with ISPs.
A well-placed source, which asked not to be named, said that the problem extends far beyond the missed bitstream deadline. The source said that the whole LLU process may collapse unless Telkom sees it as a sound commercial strategy to implement.
The source explained that there is currently no political will from the Department of Communications (DoC) behind the implementation of LLU, which means that ICASA is not able to drive the initiative.
Telkom ready to launch bitstream?
The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) said in 2011 that Telkom was able to release wholesale bitstream access services (IP Stream and Data Stream) immediately (hence in 2011) as the services have already been trialled and are ready for implementation (more here: Telkom ADSL IP Stream)
In an LLU presentation in 2011 Telkom confirmed that it has built the IP Stream service, but said at the time that the product was ‘frozen’.
If Telkom is indeed ready to launch a commercial bitstream service, this missed deadline is even more curious.
Industry speculation suggests that Telkom may be using bitstream access as an LLU bargaining tool.
Other industry players feel that and that bitstream does not provide enough benefits over the current IPConnect product to justify too much attention.
Telkom said that as per ICASA’s findings document on the LLU enquiry, LLU was to be introduced in a phased approach starting with IP Connect price reductions and the launch of Bitstream subject to the recovery of Telkom’s Access Line Deficit.
“Telkom has cooperatively worked with the Authority and reduced the prices of the Telkom IPConnect product by 30% on 1 April 2012. Furthermore, working teams from both ICASA and Telkom have been engaged in discussing an Access Line Deficit recovery scheme which is a precursor to Bitstream implementation,” Telkom said.
“However, as these processes emanate from ICASA’s LLU consultation process and Findings document and is lead by ICASA, Telkom is of the view that it is best that these queries be directed to ICASA.”
ICASA was asked why it missed this deadline, and when service providers can expect a commercial bitsream service, but the regulator did not answer any of these questions by the time of publication.