Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko has outlined his logic behind supporting government’s plan for a wholesale open access network (WOAN).
This policy would require mobile operators to share their infrastructure and compete on top-level services, reducing the advantage of dominant mobile networks.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, Maseko said that while he did not think the WOAN policy was the ideal way forward, Telkom is supporting it because it is current government policy and the quickest solution to the problem of spectrum allocation.
“Personally, I am not a big fan of WOAN,” Maseko said, adding that he doubts the government’s ability to deliver on the project quickly enough.
“Look at Eskom. You need to have a core capability of people who can execute on these sorts of things, and we are stretched as a country,” Maseko said.
He added that his ideal policy would be to allocate spectrum according to a set of criteria, such as limiting the allocation of certain bands to operators who already have allocated spectrum in those bands.
Despite his concerns, Maseko said that the WOAN policy is the quickest way forward to improve competition.
He said that the sharing of existing infrastructure would allow operators to compete on value-added services and reduce the dominance of Vodacom and MTN.
Maseko recently published an open letter addressed to South Africa’s political leaders, pleading for the release of spectrum to mobile operators to help improve the economy.
In the letter, he outlined the importance of the growing digital economy, stating that the allocation and release of spectrum are crucial in building value.
“Resources like spectrum, which is a high-impact, finite, and scarce national resource, are at the heart of unlocking value across all sectors in the digital economy,” Maseko said.
While government proceeds with its WOAN plan, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) favours auctioning the spectrum to mobile operators.
Maseko said this approach would be a mistake as it would favour Vodacom and MTN as the highest bidders while leaving smaller operators without improved infrastructure.