One and a half years late, and many frazzled nerves later, it was announced yesterday that a license for the new South African SNO (second national operator) has been awarded.
The 51% stakeholder in SNO is yet to be announced (in the next 8 weeks, according to the Minister) but at least the saga is going somewhere. ITWeb columnist, Rodney Weidemann doesn't hold much hope, though - he says that he would be surprised if we have a functional SNO after 8 months, owing to the fact that the two rival bidders will probably be urged to merge for the 51% stake. And then there's all the compromise and negotiations that will have to occur before the SNO will be able to begin rolling out services and attempting to take on the monopoly in a meaningful way.
It's all pretty maddening - especially since the development of new technologies depend so much on a healthy, competitive telecoms market. Take, for example, Telkom's handling of least-cost routing (LCR), whereby a company routes calls to a cell number from its telephone system directly onto the cellular network. Telkom claims this is an illegal circumvention of its network and is suing MTN, Nedtel Cellular, Nashua and Orion Cellular for adopting this practice. Another ITWeb columnist, Colin Anthony, thinks that, when the SNO finally does arrive, it could use this as leverage against Telkom by allowing its customers to use the LCR system provided that it contracts to its fixed line network. Apparently, LCR can save up to 40% of a company's telephone bills, so this will probably become very viable for luring customers away from Telkom.
And so we wait.