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Opportunity Knocks As Copper Bows Out

South Africa’s digitisation journey is gathering steam as Telkom’s wholesale division, Openserve announces moves to decommission its copper network on an area-by-area basis in favour of new access mediums such as optic fibre.

While Openserve cannot currently provide a fixed date for any particular area, limited decommissioning of the copper-based POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) has already commenced in communities where POTS services are delivered over the affected copper.

In practical terms, the decommissioning of Openserve’s copper network in an area will mean that residents will lose access to the home phone line that has faithfully served them for years as well as the ADSL data connectivity service. Openserve has made it clear, however, that this will not be done until an alternative connectivity solution is available.

Because Openserve is the wholesale business unit of Telkom and provides wholesale products and services to other licensed telecommunications service providers through an open-access network, this is an opportunity for residents in a decommissioned area to exercise greater choice in their selection of voice and data service providers.

An open-access network provider establishes a connection to a consumer and allows ISPs to compete with each other to provide services to the consumer over that line.

“The decommissioning of copper-based telecoms technology will indeed be something of a headache for many consumers, however, the fact that copper’s time has come was plainly obvious during lockdown when we saw how vulnerable the technology was to theft,” says Guy Halse of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA).

“ISPA urges copper customers to make sure that they clearly understand if and when Openserve copper will be replaced in their area. If your area is affected, then be aware that an alternative fibre or wireless connection should be made available and that you will be free to choose who you want your ISP and voice provider to be. It should also be possible to keep your current telephone number.”

ISPA also advises consumers to remember that it is Openserve decommissioning the copper network and not Telkom’s retail division. This means consumers and business owners are still free to select any service provider available in their area. Openserve would simply be one of the potential providers of infrastructure required for voice and data services.

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