SA’S TSHWANE METRO PILOTS POWERLINE COMMUNICATIONS BUT AWAITS LICENCE
The City of Tshwane Metro Municipality, which has tested powerline communications (PLC) kit for 18 months, admits it may not offer telecoms services in the current regulatory regime. Its dream to do so depends on the granting of a mooted metro licence, which "can do much to bridge socio-economic inequalities and will not operate in opposition to Telkom".
Charles Kuun, managing engineer for operations systems in the Tshwane electricity department, says the city is driving the idea of metropolitan licences. Kuun is a proponent of controversial PLC equipment as a "cost-effective and proven way" to offer telco services, which Tshwane would undertake "primarily for its socio-economic benefit, and only secondarily as a possible business venture".
"As regards the regulatory framework, there is no licence for us or any metros at this point," he concedes. "We have approval from ICASA [the Independent Communications Authority of SA] to run these pilots, which have now been completed, but there is no regulatory framework to offer the service yet."
Kuun says the second national operator is "very friendly" about the idea of exploiting synergies, and he says Telkom will not find Tshwane in opposition to its own roll-out plans to rural areas.
"We could take Telkom to areas where laying cable would be prohibitively expensive, and with a single connection, they can take that community out to the outside world. We would use Telkom’s lines to get outside the community," he says.
It is this proposed synergy that Tshwane is punting in its push for metro licences and cooperation. "We see it as a missing link, not competition," Kuun says. The Department of Communications’ push for convergence could ultimately aid its cause, he remarks.