Telkom recently announced that it is actively migrating customers from legacy copper technology to fibre and LTE-based solutions.
The company is moving customers to newer technologies in an effort to save maintenance costs on its ADSL network and offer customers a better service.
Fibre and LTE often offer customers better speeds and reliability, and they are not prone to damage caused by cable theft and other interruptions.
However, the steady decline of users on Telkom’s ADSL network has resulted in traditional ADSL connections delivering a much better experience.
Industry sources told MyBroadband that the declining amount of consumer data traffic being pushed through Telkom’s copper infrastructure leads to lower congestion and better, more stable connections for the remaining users.
This, paired with steady advances in network optimisation technology, has apparently lead to ADSL providing a better service than ever before – barring the occasional interruption due to cable theft, which remains rampant in South Africa.
This means that as Telkom is actively shutting down its ADSL offerings piece by piece, ADSL connections are actually improving in quality.
Switching off copper
For a while now, Telkom’s response to the pervasive problems of copper cable theft and breaks has been to offer users a fibre or LTE solution instead of replacing ageing infrastructure.
This has been true for other ISPs as well, with ADSL customers often being encouraged to switch to newer technologies in an effort to improve user experience.
Telkom’s plan to switch off copper entirely is laid out in stages, with postpaid voice lines being the next obstacle to tackle. The company will then move on to migrating ADSL users with fibre coverage to equivalent FTTH packages, and lastly, those without fibre coverage will be migrated to LTE-based products.
Users with ADSL connections will be offered equivalent products based on other technologies, although as more users are migrated this way, the ADSL network will empty out and congestion will no longer affect performance.
Of course, it is important to note that ADSL suffers from a number of other problems not borne by newer technologies – most notably cable theft.
We asked Telkom about the effect of this migration on the ADSL network, and the company stated that it is possible that some ADSL customers may have noticed improved performance as a result.
“Our infrastructure provisioning division, Openserve, has over the last few years invested in technology for enhancing ADSL user experience,” Telkom said.
“This was implemented from the perspective of substantial alleviation of backhaul congestion, better traffic management, and through improved stability of individual lines through optimisation based on copper quality and distance.”
The company acknowledged that its copper-based services have been declining steadily, adding that this could have an effect on network performance.
“As reported in our Group financial results over the last few terms, copper-based services in general have declined. It is however possible that some ADSL users may have improved experience if the number of users on their DSLAM is reduced either through organic churn or migration to other services,” Telkom said.
“It is also true that a significant change in the usage patterns of a single or a few users can contribute to a different experience of all other users connected to the same DSLAM.”
When asked whether less shaping or throttling was occurring on the ADSL network, Telkom said this occurs at an ISP level, and that its shaping policy is based on the rules outlined in each package.
“The primary challenge with reliability on ADSL is copper theft and the impact it has on the provisioning of uninterrupted and sustainable broadband services,” Telkom said.