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New Telkom rules unlock VDSL2, FTTH

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Telkom has announced a change in its “business rules”” to allow roll-out of long-available high-speed broadband technologies, including VDSL2+ and Fibre-to-the-Home, both of which offer typical speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Telkom yesterday announced that it had changed its processes and business rules to make existing high-speed broadband services more readily available.

“”Contrary to popular belief, Telkom does in fact today have significant fibre-to-the-curb and fibre-to-the-business premises deployed,”” said Mr Bashier Sallie, Telkom’s Managing Director of Wholesale and Networks.

‘We currently have in excess of 15 000 Fibre Distribution Points (FDPs) and have recently changed our processes and business rules to make this more readily available. In addition Telkom has DSL coverage for 93% of its current customer base through 2700 fibre access nodes or DSLAMs on a last mile copper access, offering ADSL and ADSL2+ technology which facilitates a range of broadband speeds up to 10Mbps.

‚We aim to increase our FTTC rollout to 3700 points of presence in the country. This new generation fibre access node will enable VDSL, VDSL2+ and xPON speeds.”” ADSL 2+ offers theoretical maximum speeds of up to 24Mbps, while VDSL2 has a theoretical maximum of 250 Mbps but a more typical performance of 50-100Mbps, depending on distance to the exchange (it drops to 50Mbps at around 1.6km from the exchange). The VDSL2 standard is not new: it was finalised by the International Telecommunication Union in 2005. However, Telkom typically delays widespread roll-out of new fixed line broadband technologies until it has been well-established elsewhere, and until emerging access technologies pose a real threat. This usually means that wireless broadband technologies offered by mobile networks are able to catch up to Telkom’s speed offerings, and even overtake them. For example, Telkom markets ADSL2+ as a technology that allows download speeds of up to 10Mbps, whereas the formal ADSL2+ standard allows for speeds of up to 24Mbps. It appears that the opening up of ADSL2+ and VDSL2, along with FTTC offerings, is geared to fend off the coming challenge from 4G mobile networks, which will use Long Term Evolution (LTE) to offer speeds of 30Mbps and more. The results of an LTE pilot under way by MTN shows consistent download speeds of 30Mbps, uploads of 15Mbps, and peak downloads of 55Mbps. If it is offered at prices equivalent to that of ADSL, it would wipe out the current Telkom ADSL business. However, there is no clarity on when the regulatory authority, Icasa, will license LTE. Yesterday’s Telkom announcement can therefore be seen as a belated attempt to fend of competition, as much as to upgrade its commercial offerings.

Telkom described the change as “”significant progress on the Company’s journey to transform its network. The destination is an all-IP network designed to enable fixed-mobile convergence and truly differentiated high speed broadband.””

Said Sallie, ‚The journey to a future-proof network is based on a comprehensive set of network interventions. We have commenced the last, and arguably the most challenging, of these interventions – a revamp of our access network. ‚We will take our fibre deeper into the network, thanks to new fibre capabilities, and will smartly leverage a mix of access technologies, namely very high speed DSL technology (VDSL2) in a fibre-to-the-curb configuration and passive optic fibre (PON) configuration directly to the home or business premises. Given the mix of customer broadband needs, a dispersed customer base and vast geography in SA, Telkom has chosen FTTx as our solution to ensure commercial and service sustainability.‚

Sallie acknowledged that an access network is only as good as the underlying transmission and core network.

‚We have gone a long way in revamping our aggregation network, which is now able to support super-fast transmission and enable a superior browsing experience. We have also transformed our transmission network which has evolved from carrying Gbit/s to Tbit/s throughput with great resilience and manageability. Our international connectivity has received a major boost to ensure worldwide reach with superb capacity and resilience.

‚Our FTTx deployment is supported by more than 143 000 km of Telkom fibre in our national, regional and access networks across the country. Scale and presence is important and Telkom certainly has this, but depth of experience and the ability to innovate and utilise all the capabilities in the network to extract the value is crucial.””

Services and pricing for consumers and small business have not yet been announced.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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