LLU: a lost opportunity

“Of course I am disappointed,” said Tshilidzi Marwala, former chairman of the local loop unbundling (LLU) committee and dean of engineering at the University of Johannesburg, about the LLU process in South Africa.

Marwala’s words were in response to a question on whether he was disappointed that the LLU process did not finish by the November 2011 target set by former Minister of Communications, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.

“It is a pity that this critical and vital milestone that could have broadened broadband access was not met,” Marwala said.

In May 2007 Marwala said that by January 2008 all the mechanisms would be in place for Telkom’s rivals to access the local loop, beginning the unbundling process.

He conceded at the time that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) considered the 4 year time-frame within which to finalise the necessary regulations “overly optimistic”.

However, South Africa would be able to learn from the experience and mistakes of other countries to achieve the unbundling in record time, Marwala said.

Tshilidzi Marwala
Tshilidzi Marwala

Sadly, ICASA was only able to convince Telkom to lower the rates for IP Connect, its wholesale ADSL product, by 30%.

This price cut took effect on 1 April 2012, five months after the original LLU deadline.

ICASA went on to promise that it would ensure the implementation of a Bitstream product by November 2012.

While a far cry from full LLU, and a year late, Bitstream Access would have been a step in the right direction. As of February 2013, however, Telkom has yet to commercially launch its Bitstream Access product.

Asked why he believes the targets weren’t met, Marwala said that ICASA did not have enough resources to implement the LLU process.

“Our job was to make recommendations and for ICASA to implement,” Marwala said. “The process reached a deadlock somewhere between my final report and ICASA’s implementation.”

Marwala was recently appointed to the ICT Policy Review Panel by current Minister of Communications, Dina Pule.

The panel met for the first time in January 2013 to “map out the scope of work for the panel; delineate responsibilities; design a strategic approach to tackling the ICT policy review process; and address administrative issues”.

Telkom LLU
Telkom LLU

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LLU: a lost opportunity