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Telkom SA (South Africa)

Telkom SA SOC Limited is a South African wireline and wireless telecommunications provider, operating in more than 38 countries across the African continent. Telkom is majority state-owned (55.3%) with the South African government owning 40.5% of Telkom, while another 14.8% is owned by another state-owned company – the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which is closely linked to the South African government.

History of telecommunications in South Africa

The first use of telecommunication in South Africa happened in April 1860 was a single line telegraph connecting Cape Town and Simonstown. In 1879, the first undersea links were introduced, first connecting Durban and Europe. In the 1960s, South Africa was connected to 72 nations and total outgoing annual international calls numbered over 28,800.

In 1994, South Africa launched its mobile operations, underwritten by Telkom in partnership with Vodafone. This subsidiary grew to be Vodacom, which Telkom sold in late 2008 in preference for its own 3G network (established as 8ta, but now Telkom Mobile). Vodacom has a subscriber base of more than 45M, with an average revenue per user of more than R60 across both rural and urban subscribers. Vodacom, together with the other operators, have come under criticism in late 2009 by government and the public for high interconnect charges.

In 2005, the Department of Communications redefined the Electronics Communications Act, which consolidated and redefined the landscape of telecommunications licensing in South Africa (both mobile and fixed). The Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) currently licenses more than 400 independent operators with the Electronic Communications Network License (with the ability to self-provision) as well as issuing Electronic Communications Service Licenses for service deployment over infrastructure in the retail domain.

Nowadays, Telkom faces competition from the second Fixed Network Operator Licensee, Neotel, as well as the three mobile operators, Vodacom, MTN, and Cell-C.

Telkom market position and ownership

Telkom was managed by US-based SBC Communications (now AT&T Inc.) from 1997 to 2004. SBC has since sold its interest in the company, after reducing operational expenditure (reducing staff resources, etc.) and increasing revenue by increased product prices, thereby increasing the share-price for greater ROI.

The company is currently the market leader in the broadband space, with more than 500,000 customers on 2-40 Mbit/s DSL; it dominates the managed services market and has more than 250 corporate customers on its order book. Telkom SA operates 4.5M fixed access lines, bases on its 2008 annual report

Products and services

Telkom ADSL

Telkom provides ADSL retail services via their ISP Telkom Internet to consumer and business customers, and through Telkom Wholesale to other licensed operators. Most ISPs in South Africa, such as Afrihost, utilise Telkom’s copper infrastructure for reselling ADSL services.

Telkom provides ADSL with POTS. According to Telkom’s figures, 92% of exchanges have been upgraded to support ADSL.[14] Telkom is currently the largest provider of fixed-line broadband in the country, with 412 190 subscribers according to the 2008 annual report.

Telkom ADSL is billed as an add-on service to a POTS voice line. A PPPoE account, which can be provided by most Internet Service Providers (ISPs), must be purchased separately to the ADSL connection for internet access. ISPs are divided into two categories, those who purchase IPConnect from Telkom and those who resell PPPoE accounts from IPConnect ISPs or Telkom themselves. IPConnect is a Telkom bit-stream access product allowing ISPs to route internet bandwidth from their ADSL subscribers over their own bandwidth.

Originally, three connection rate ranges are offered (associated with different connection fees) which are “Fast” (1024/384 kbit/s), “Faster” (up to 2048/512 kbit/s), “Fastest” up to 10240/1002 kbit/s (ADSL2+)) of bandwidth for downstream/upstream respectively existed. The actual speed obtained can vary depending on line conditions. These connection rate ranges have since changed, with the minimum speed currently being 2048/512 kbit/s and mid-range 5120/512 kbit/s.

Telkom have released a 10 Mbit ADSL 2+ service for a limited amount of “Fastest” users on 15 August 2010.

From 18 October 2011, Telkom Internet launched business offerings, and has subsequently increased value with speed upgrades and improved prioritisation for business users, as well as converting products to include soft-capping (unlimited browsing).

Telkom Internet offers business and residential SoftCap packages (as of 1 February 2012).

As of 24 August 2012, “Faster” (1024 kbit/s) users started reporting speed upgrades to 2 Mbit/s (2048 kbit/s) on their ADSL Lines. As of 2 September 2012, Telkom have begun the process of trialing 40Mbit/s VDSL and FTTx.

Telkom 3G

Telkom had offered 3G products available since 2008. The coverage was initially limited to a small part of the country. Telkom entered the South African Cellular market under the brand 8ta. The public launch of the network took place on 14 October 2010 and products have been available since 18 October 2010, supporting both GSM and 3G services.

Telkom Music

Telkom partnered with Tencent Africa to launch the Telkom Music, a music streaming service that is made available via the Telkom Music Powered By JOOX app in South Africa on 22 July 2021. The Telkom Music Powered by JOOX app was reviewed by Arthur Goldstuck, founder of World Wide Worx.

Local subsidiaries

Telkom Group Limited includes South African subsidiaries, BCX, Gyro and Openserve.

The FastNet subsidiary was incorporated into BCX in 2018 with all enterprise wireless solutions, including µWave, satellite, 4G/5G and Wi-Fi solutions.


Recent legislation passed by the South African government have lowered many restrictions on companies wishing to provide telecommunication access in the Republic. Competitors to the land-line monopoly have flourished, with special note given to providers of wireless broadband, who provide greater geographical penetration, by means of the technology used, than Telkom. Examples of these providers include Sentech, an extension of the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation, and WBS Co., a black owned enterprise. On 31 August 2006, Neotel (Second Network Operator) announced the launch of its services as the second national operator, initially offering wholesale international services, with plans to expand to business & residential customers within months. Neotel plans to initially use CDMA-2000 wireless technology for the last mile infrastructure due to the government and ICASA’s (the regulator) inability and unwillingness to unbundle the local-loop, leading some to suggest that it’s not much more than a cellular operator instead of the much needed competitor to Telkom.

The three mobile telephone networks in South Africa, listed in terms of numbers of subscribers, are Vodacom (currently 65% owned by the United Kingdom‘s Vodafone, but until November 2008 jointly with Telkom SA), MTN and Cell C. There are several service providers, such as Virgin Mobile and Nashua Mobile, which subscribers can use to access the networks. There are approximately six times as many cellphone subscribers than land line subscribers in South Africa (30 million versus 5 million), and since these networks route their calls over their own network, GSM providers have taken a large chunk of Telkom’s business, one reason for this is that many see Telkom as being an inept corporation, only interested in making money, failing to consider the customer. This is a fine example of a monopoly that would, in true free market environments, soon fail.

Another promising technology is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which may decrease the number of calls made over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) in the near future. Telkom’s international calling rates are already far undercut by VoIP providers.

Pan African operations

Telkom operates in 38 countries in Africa, from regional hubs in Nigeria and Kenya via an integrated service provider strategy . It is expanding its service portfolio across managed voice, managed data, IT services & applications, and diversifying into new revenue growth opportunities in adjacent markets.

Recent acquisitions of Kenyan ISP Africa Online, and Nigerian mobile operator Multi-Links gives Telkom strategic hubs to expand data and voice services into Africa. Africa Online (AFOL) is a Pan African Internet Service Provider operating in eight countries with the 9th country through a joint-venture with Verizon South Africa. Multi-Links is a private telecommunications operator (as of 2009 a wholly owned Telkom subsidiary) with a Unified Access License allowing fixed, mobile, data, long-distance and international telecommunications services focused primarily on corporate clients in Nigeria.

Via Africa Online, Telkom intends leveraging its international capacity to deploy satellite based Internet access. Through Multi-Links, Telkom is introducing converged fixed and mobile services to the Nigerian market.

Telkom (South Africa)

By Wikipedia Contributors Container: Wikipedia Publisher: Wikimedia Foundation Year: 2023 URL:

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