The long-running saga of which of two bidders will be awarded a controlling interest in the long-delayed second network operator (SNO) will be announced ‘sometime in 2005’, according to a spokesperson from telecoms regulator ICASA. The pair of bidders for the 26% stake – Old Mutual Asset Managers and Tata Africa – registered their interest back in October, and had hoped that the regulator would make a speedy decision. The long delays have, some argue, given Telkom the opportunity to sign long-running contracts with many of its best corporate contracts. The SNO’s business case has been harmed further by ICASA’s decision to liberalise the telecoms markets from 1 February.
In a related story, South Africa’s electricity utilities have expressed an interest in using their networks to offer telecoms services to rural communities. The electricity network reaches around 98% of the South African population, far higher than Telkom’s PSTN, and in some cases has spare capacity of up to 80%, which could be used to carry broadband voice and data traffic. City Power, one of the country’s largest electricity companies, is reported to have already held discussions with the SNO to discuss sharing its capacity.