Openserve finally joins ISPA after 25 years

Telkom’s wholesale division Openserve has joined the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA).

This comes as the association celebrates its 25th year of existence this month.

Founded on 6 June 1996, ISPA was established when a handful of ISPs met in an office in Rosebank and agreed to form a new industry body focused on ensuring fair competition and improving local peering.

Its early activities were focused on preventing Telkom from using its monopoly position in the telecoms industry to unfairly compete against the country’s fledgling Internet access providers.

ISPA’s efforts ultimately resulted in the Competition Commission ruling that Telkom’s wholesale and retail businesses must be split, and that it must not give preference to its own retail division when it came to the sale of Internet services.

“Today, Openserve provides services equally to Telkom’s retail division and to other ISPs,” ISPA said.

“It is fitting then that ISPA is now able to welcome Openserve as its newest member.”

Telkom resisted joining ISPA for over two decades, with the company’s CEO Sipho Maseko declaring as recently as 2019 that ISPs are “a relic of the past” in response to questions about its declining fixed ISP business.

Seeing Openserve join South Africa’s oldest association for Internet companies is there a welcome change, especially given that it operates South Africa’s largest fibre network, with over 165,000km of cable in the ground.

Openserve joins Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Seacom as ISPA’s three backbone members — the companies that literally operate the backbones of South Africa’s Internet infrastructure.

ISPA has been recognised as an Industry Representative Body since 2009.

This gives its members special legal protections for third-party traffic passing over their networks.

ISPA said that fair competition and local peering have remained its twin focus pillars.

“Fibre network operators are encouraged to adopt fair competitive practices while ISPA’s INX-ZA division — which has provided 25 years of uninterrupted JINX (Johannesburg Internet Exchange) service — now operates exchanges across nine sites in three SA cities,” the association stated.

“By supporting the operation of JINX, DINX (Durban Internet Exchange) and CINX (Cape Town Internet Exchange), ISPA has helped develop local infrastructure.”

ISPA said that Internet exchanges encouraged local traffic to remain local, which provided a more responsive experience to Internet users.

In addition, ISPA stated it has consistently lobbied for transparency towards consumers, open competition, respect for the privacy of Internet users, and a legislative framework that is consistent with the open standards and collaboration that underpins the global Internet.

Now read: Telkom’s fixed-line nightmare

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Openserve finally joins ISPA after 25 years