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Telkom still a monopoly

08 May 2012, 09:21

Being in the IT business I work with several connectivity and data suppliers, and regrettably Telkom continues to feature as an "upstream" supplier to more than ninety percent of my clients. The problem that I have with this frustrating situation is that my "supplier" advertises themselves as my opposition: directly to my clients!

Telkom landlines have always been a prerequisite for ADSL services, and still are. In other words, you need to have a Telkom landline to apply for ADSL. Now I find a client that needs Internet, so I send them to a Telkom customer services branch to apply for the landline. When they have put in the application the Telkom official has been trained to ask, "Would you like ADSL Internet on that line?" Now this gets me annoyed.... My client is not educated about the ins-and-outs of the Internet, so they easily get fooled into saying "YES" to that question. So Telkom then gains another ADSL service where I would have been the "reseller" and made a monthly percentage while charging the same price to the client. To top this, they also often manage to sell their ISP service to the client, and even worse, a contract for the services based on a "free" modem! So my effort in promoting my services has then resulted in Telkom stealing the client completely.

The above is worst-case scenario of course, but how about the other, more common situation:

The client gets their landline ordered and installed. The reseller sells them the ADSL service and the data package that suits their needs. Telkom will still EVERY MONTH send advertising to the client inside their Telkom account envelope, drawing them to bundled line, call and data bundles. Telkom is the only provider of fixed lines (and I exclude cellular, wireless and VoIP providers for the reason that they are not fixed lines) in the Free State where I am based... and the country if we exclude the minor presence of Neotel's fixed line service. So is it ethical that Telkom relies on resellers to sell their fixed line so as to do business in the ADSL marketplace, but then try and undercut the same Telkom resellers?

And the latest Telkom trick seems to be the situation where copper wires have been stolen. They then assess the situation and decide for themselves that they will replace the copper lines with their "new" 8ta cellular data service. So they supply the customer with a modem and connect to 8ta, thereby cutting out the ADSL service entirely, so if you were a Telkom reseller you are out of the picture now! If you sold data to the client you now sell nothing! I had some success recently when I reported two such situations to ICASA: both were fortunately replaced with copper lines, but the situation is such that the wires WILL be stolen again, and they WILL eventually go this wireless route.

8ta is Telkom's "savior" in the data business: a very clever idea to keep the data business alive and profitable. The general population (including 90% of IT staff) doesn't realize that 8ta's wireless link CAN support standard broadband accounts if 8ta allow that configuration from their side; and Telkom/8ta will not admit it: of course that would cause them a serious loss of profits! (And let us not forget where a large portion of Telkom's ownership lies.)

If we can only see the irregularities that surround us, we may be inspired to stand up for what is right.

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