Vodacom has presented its remarks on the Discussion Document on Priority Markets to ICASA at the regulator’s head office in Sandton, Johannesburg on 7 June 2018.
The operator said it supported the exclusion of all retail markets from the list of priority markets, along with the inclusion of fixed wholesale markets.
Vodacom also stressed the importance of access to existing duct and pole infrastructure owned by Telkom for the development of fibre networks in South Africa.
It recommended that ICASA include duct and pole access in the list of priority markets to improve local fibre investment, which it argued would improve both fixed and mobile services.
Mobile operators require access to fibre backhaul to improve service delivery, especially as the high-bandwidth requirements of 5G draw nearer, said Vodacom.
Vodacom added that the low average broadband speeds in South Africa are evidence of under-performance in the fixed market, due to the slow uptake of fibre services.
Prioritising the mobile sector over access to duct and pole facilities due to the increased adoption of mobile services would therefore be a mistake, said the network.
Access to infrastructure
“We believe ICASA needs to go further and include access to duct and pole facilities in the prioritisation process, as these are a clear example of a bottleneck,” said Vodacom.
“By promoting duct and pole access, we can improve outcomes in both fixed and mobile markets.”
Vodacom said that microwave backhaul has a natural limit, and operators would be forced to rely on Telkom’s infrastructure to deploy and roll out 5G mobile services.
“Operators, including Vodacom, have been ready to invest in fibre for years, but have been restrained by not having reasonable access to those ducts and poles,” it said.
The current facilities leasing regulations have a number of challenges and operate as a mechanism which can theoretically support access, but is not sufficiently supporting access to these ducts and poles.
Vodacom said that in countries where access to ducts and poles is highly developed, there are advanced regulations which govern access. This improves investment in fibre infrastructure, it said.
Vodacom’s statements follow a “landmark” court case in 2017 between Vodacom and Telkom.
Telkom won a case where urgent applications were brought by it and Vodacom over Vodacom’s “unlawful use” of Telkom’s infrastructure in the Dennegeur Residential Estate.
Telkom brought the application against Vodacom following its use of Telkom’s duct infrastructure without consent.
The duct infrastructure, installed by Telkom in 2000, was located in the estate and used by Telkom to provide copper cables to residents.
In August 2015, Vodacom asked Telkom for permission to install fibre in its ducts in the estate, but Telkom said it was not obligated to share its infrastructure.
Both operators continued to trade responses and information through an ICASA dispute, while Vodacom proceeded with its fibre installation.
Vodacom said its fibre installation in the estate was completed in May 2016.
Following the court ruling, Vodacom was ordered to remove all equipment and fibre cables from the infrastructure.