Fixed broadband the future, voice calls to go free: Telkom

Telkom’s head of strategy, Miriam Altman, has said that fixed broadband represents the future of the company, and that they expect voice calls to eventually become a free service and are planning accordingly.

Answering questions about Telkom’s strategy to reverse the decline in fixed-lines that is reported in the company’s financial statements year after year, Altman said that a lot of people have migrated to mobile voice.

However, she challenged the notion that fixed-line connections have been outmoded by mobile.

“Some believe that fixed line is an outdated technology and yet it is the technology of the future and acts as the foundation for most telecoms services,” Altman said.

“For example, most mobile services now rely on a fixed network,” she said. “Big data applications, large firms, government and connected homes streaming movies or games will all rely on fixed broadband.”

Altman said that mobile broadband has an important role to play for when people are on the move, but businesses and home users will still rely on fixed broadband connections.

For this reason Telkom is investing heavily in its network – R5-billion per year – and will focus on making its fixed broadband products more compelling, Altman said.

Miriam Altman
Miriam Altman

“Historically we haven’t made fixed broadband a sufficiently compelling product – because of the quality of service we offered in relation to mobile broadband,” Altman said.

She said that this is set to change as Telkom continues to upgrade its last mile infrastructure.

Telkom officially announced its network transformation initiative in March 2012, revealing that it would replace street cabinets and eventually exchanges with multi-service access nodes (MSANs).

These MSANs lets Telkom offer 20 Megabit per second (Mbps) and 40Mbps very-high-bitrate digital subscriber line (VDSL), and fibre services that Telkom said can one day reach up to 1 Gigabit per second.

After conducting trials during 2012 and early 2013, Telkom launched 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL services commercially in March 2013.

Availability of VDSL services remains limited to a few areas in South Africa, but this is expected to change in the coming years as Telkom has said that the MSAN project is on track and roll-outs continue as planned.

“This is rolling out rapidly to Telkom’s top 600 exchanges, covering 90% of its customer base,” Altman said. “Our customers can now check the potential speeds they can access in their areas on our website.”

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Fixed broadband the future, voice calls to go free: Telkom