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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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