The South African government will have an approved local loop unbundling (LLU) strategy by March 2017, the Ministry of Finance announced as part of the 2015 national budget.
LLU forms part of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Service’s programme to cut the cost to communicate in South Africa, it said in its Budget Vote (32).
Unbundling the local loop, in this context, means giving other network operators greater access to Telkom’s “last mile” infrastructure – copper lines that run into homes and businesses.
This is not the first time the government has made promises about LLU, with former Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri saying in May 2007 that unbundling should urgently be completed by 2011.
Had this process started in 2008 when it was supposed to, it could have helped introduce much-needed competition into South Africa’s fixed-line broadband market, which Telkom still dominates.
As things stand now, though, South Africa’s existing copper telecommunications infrastructure is being made redundant by wireless and fibre technologies.
Telkom still controls what is the biggest fibre and last-mile copper network in South Africa, but a number of operators – new and established – have rolled out fibre-to-the-home services in the past year.
One can’t help but wonder if the time for LLU has come and gone thanks to Telkom’s stalling tactics, an ineffectual regulator, and the Communications Ministry.
Add to this the many deadlines that the government has missed and the promises it has broken regarding LLU, and it is difficult to take anything it says on the topic seriously anymore.
The infographic below summarises the various deadlines for LLU that have been announced, and whether they were met.