30 years of Telkom

Telkom is celebrating its thirtieth birthday. The company was founded on 1 October 1991 when the Department of Posts and Telecommunications (DPT) was broken up into Telkom and the SA Post Office.

When Telkom was unbundled from the DPT 30 years ago, it had 67,667 employees under the leadership of managing director Danie du Toit.

At the time, it was mainly a provider of fixed-line telephony services to the business and residential markets in South Africa.

Telkom had 3.5 million fixed telephone lines in 1991 with growing demand. Interestingly, it still had 89,661 manual exchange lines at the time.

While most of the money came from phone calls, Telkom also offered a telematics service, operated a C450 mobile phone network, and it was working on the SAT-2 undersea cable system.

It further provided maritime radio services, satellite products, and Diginet data services for businesses and corporate clients.

Over the last three decades, Telkom transformed from mainly a fixed-line telecommunications provider to a fully-fledged ICT provider with a suite of fixed, mobile, and IT products.

Although Telkom’s dominance was diminished with the introduction of competition, it continues to serve millions of South African households and companies.

Here is a look back at the highlights of Telkom’s 30-year journey.

1991 — Telkom was founded with 67,667 employees under the leadership of Managing Director Danie du Toit.

1992 — First SDH pilot network installed connecting Doornfontein, Rosebank, Proes Street and Bronberg with a 622 Mb/s system.

1993 — High-speed asynchronous dial-in network was commissioned in December 1993. The SAT-2 submarine fibre optic link from South Africa to the Western World was commissioned. Telkom entered a joint venture with Vodafone and the Rembrandt Group to form Vodacom Group.

1994 — Vodacom was launched on 1 April 1994. The 50,000th network terminating unit (NTU) in Diginet, Telkom’s digital point-to-point data network was installed. ISDN was introduced. The first fibre ring was put into service.

1995 — Telkom launched its Internet access network platform SAIX (SA Internet eXchange).

1996 — Telkom deployed a point-to-point optical line system between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Johannesburg city skyline

1997 — As part of Telkom’s Internet strategy, it launched a new subsidiary, Intekom, to provide Internet services.

1998 — Telkom, African, and global operators joined forces to promote the two cable systems, SAFE and SAT-3/WASC, as a single integrated project. It launched VSAT in the same year.

1999 — Telkom installed a nationwide ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) network which linked Johannesburg, Durban, PE, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.

2000 — Telkom’s new National Network Operations Centre (NNOC) was opened. WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexing) was installed between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Inside Telkom's NNOC

2001 — Telkom had 55,105 dial-up customers. VoIP was launched to enhanced Telkom’s international services.

2002 — ADSL was launched in August 2002. The SAT-3/WASC/SAFE Far East optical submarine cable was commissioned.

Modem ADSL router internet

2003 — Telkom was listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange and on the New York exchange on 4 March.

JSE Johannesbuth Stock Exchange

2004 — In June 2004, Thintana sold their 14.9% shareholding by a placement on the open market.

2005 — Telkom partnered with Intel to trial WiMAX. The prices of Telkom’s ADSL products were reduced.

South Africa ADSL ISP Fibre Modem

2006 — Telkom launched CLOSER, which bundles line rental, call answer, standard minutes and call-more minutes into a package with a flat monthly charge.

Magnolia telephone

2007 — Telkom launched WiMax and introduced Waya Waya – an affordable fixed-line telephone service.

2008 — Telkom announces that it will be split into three operational units: Telkom SA, Telkom International, and Telkom Data Centre Operations. Next Genration Diginet (NGD) was introduced and a W-CDMA services was launched.

2009 — The Telkom board decides to delist from the New York Stock Exchange, effective from 27 August 2009. In November 2009, Cybernest – Telkom’s data centre operations – was launched. Telkom sells its 50% stake in Vodacom.

Data Centre Header

2010 — Telkom launched 10Mbps ADSL services. 8ta, aka Telkom Mobile, was launched in October 2010.

2011 — Telkom launched uncapped ADSL products in October 2011.

ADSL technology text

2012 — Telkom launched SpaceStream Home, an IP-based communication solution making use of satellite technology.


2013 — Telkom rebranded 8ta to Telkom Mobile and launched free Wi-Fi access for its contract and pre-paid customers. Telkom launched 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL services.

8ta Telkom Mobile

2014 — Telkom unveiled a new corporate look. Telkom culls its Aardvark search engine.

Telkom logo

2015 — Telkom buys Business Connexion. Openserve launched. Telkom started offering 50GB broadband bundles for R699 across four broadband technologies – FTTH, LTE-A, LTE, and xDSL.

BCX headline image

2016 — Telkom partners with Vumatel to offer better fibre-to-the-home. Telkom launched a new photovoltaic solar farm at its campus in Centurion.

Solar Panel Parking Shades at Telkom Centurion Campus

2017 — Telkom launched LIT, offering FreeMe contract subscribers free music and video streaming.

Telkom Lit new

2018 — Telkom launched a new online store. Openserve started to offer 200Mbps packages.

2019 — Telkom starts to decommission ADSL in some areas.

ADSL text dark

2020 — Telkom partnered with the SABC to launch a new online streaming service named TelkomONE. Telkom launched a 1TB LTE deal for R999. Openserve launched a new product for its DSL-based broadband services called Openserve Pure Connect.

2021 — Telkom Business brought back to life. Telkom launched eSIM support.

Telkom Business

Now read: ICASA taking spectrum away from operators with data demand peaking

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30 years of Telkom