Telkom recently outlined its plans to shut down its copper network, as first announced by its CEO, Sipho Maseko, in May 2019.
The crux of Telkom’s plan to migrate users is to offer them more stable and similarly-priced products which would not be affected by cable theft and similar interruptions.
“There will come a time when we switch off the copper technology, because what you also don’t want to do is to maintain two or three different networks at the same time as that drives cost,” Maseko said.
“Then we will get to a point where it’s end-of-life and in essence the customer has to move to a newer technology, because we will also run out of people who would have had the skill to properly maintain the copper network,” he added.
Telkom previously told MyBroadband that it would begin migrating users in batches, and that it hoped to have moved all ADSL customers in fibre-connected areas to the newer technology by the end of September.
Moving from ADSL to fibre is a no-brainer in areas where the technology is available, as fibre is both cheaper and faster than copper-based broadband.
Telkom’s plan to migrate customers in these areas is to tell them that ADSL is being turned off and to move them to the new technology with a more attractive offering.
This should result in minimal friction, as ADSL customers with capped accounts can often be upgraded to uncapped products for a similar monthly charge.
It is in areas where Telkom ADSL customers do not have fibre coverage that the company will encounter difficulties moving customers away from copper.
Telkom’s solution to this problem is to offer these customers similar packages to the ADSL connections they are currently using, but instead over LTE technology.
This means that if you are a capped ADSL connection at a fixed speed, you will be offered an LTE package with unlimited speed and the same cap for a similar price.
Customers with uncapped ADSL connections at a fixed speed will be offered a throttled LTE connection with uncapped data usage – subject to a fair usage policy.
These may seem like good solutions for migrating customers, but Telkom is faced with a few problems in actually moving customers across.
The first is that while Telkom dominates the ADSL market, there are other competitors in the fibre industry on both the infrastructure and ISP level. This means that it can expect to lose some fixed-line revenue to other fibre providers as it turns off its copper network.
Additionally, the Telkom LTE network delivers good speeds but minimal coverage outside of urban areas, making it difficult to offer ADSL replacements in remote areas.
The company said it has partnered with Vodacom as a roaming partner to overcome this solution, but this brings its own set of problems.
Telkom customers have reported issues with switching back to Telkom’s native network from its “TelkomSA-R“ roaming network, leaving them unable to use their on-net Telkom data in many areas.
One Telkom ADSL customer in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal told MyBroadband that they were offered an LTE replacement for their ADSL line, but after this was implemented, there was no Internet connection available through their LTE router.
This was due to the SIM in the customer’s router connecting to the TelkomSA-R network instead of the TelkomSA network, despite the LTE service being a 24-month contract with only on-net Telkom LTE data available.
There are numerous challenges for Telkom to overcome when migrating existing ADSL customers to LTE, especially if it plans to completely shut down its ADSL and VDSL network in five years.
MyBroadband asked Telkom about the problems customers were experiencing with LTE migration.
Telkom told MyBroadband that it checks the LTE coverage of users being migrated from ADSL to determine whether their LTE solution will be compatible.
The company also said it creates specific LTE plans for ADSL users who are migrating to newer technologies.
“Specific SmartBroadband LTE migration products have been built and these contracts include Telkom Mobile LTE On-Net data only,” Telkom said.
With regards to the Telkom customer in Ladismith mentioned above, Telkom said the customer was not contacted by its staff.
“We do not have Telkom Mobile coverage in Ladismith so this service will not work at all,” Telkom said. “The customer was not contacted by Telkom as part of our migration effort as there is no coverage in this area.”
“We are contacting the customer to cancel the service and find out how the service was obtained so that we follow up accordingly.”