Johannesburg - MWEB wants all internet service providers (ISPs) and network providers to agree to carry traffic free of charge over to each other's networks.
On Wednesday MWEB declared its willingness to conclude free exchange agreements with other ISPs and said discussions in this regard had already started.
Free transfer agreements, which can be compared with interconnect agreements between cellphone operators, are the global norm.
Chief executive Rudi Jansen says open exchange is a very important step in creating an affordable, efficient internet market in South Africa. This would give consumers a better internet experience and break the stranglehold that a few large players currently have on the rest of the market.
The announcement comes in the wake of MWEB's uncapped ADSL data offer.
Jansen says South Africa has a poorly developed exchange infrastructure and most of the large internet access providers charge excessive fees to carry traffic to and from their networks. He blamed the high costs on past restrictive policy measures that allowed ISPs to charge prices that were much higher than the global norm.
This is also why it is cheaper to redirect traffic intended for South Africa internationally rather than locally. As a result growth in the industry has been slow, Jansen explains.
The more open and fair interconnection becomes, the more growth the industry will see as a consequence of increased competition – and both consumers and enterprises will benefit. The additional benefit of exchange agreements is an improvement to the quality of users' internet experience, if the agreement is correctly implemented.
Telkom's rental tariffs for the "last mile" – the line that connects consumers’ premises with their nearest exchange – still makes up the largest part of a user's interconnect charges. Until this network is thrown open, the extent to which individual ISPs can reduce internet costs to the market is limited.
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