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Telkom accuses MetroFibre of illegally accessing its fibre ducts

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 07 Nov 2022

Telkom is accusing rival MetroFibre Networks of accessing its fibre infrastructure without permission.

Amid the impasse, Telkom reported MetroFibre Networx to telecommunications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), to have the case resolved.

On Friday, ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) was supposed to hear the case between the bickering parties.

Said ICASA on Friday: “The CCC will hear a case today [Friday] involving Telkom and MetroFibre Networx. Telkom claims that MetroFibre Networx illegally gained access to Telkom’s facilities and installed fibre-optic cabling in Telkom’s infrastructure at the Century Manor Estate, Hertzog Doringkloof, Centurion.”

However, according to Telkom and MetroFibre, the hearing was postponed indefinitely.

In an e-mail to ITWeb, Telkom says: “Telkom filed two complaints against MetroFibre Networx at the Complaints and Compliance Committee, in March 2021 and August 2022, respectively.

“These complaints concerned MetroFibre Networx accessing and installing fibre in Telkom’s ducts in certain estates in Pretoria without engaging Telkom and bringing a request to lease these ducts, as required in terms of the Electronic Communications Act and the Facilities Leasing Regulations.

Telecommunications companies rely on fibre-optic ducts to build and improve their networks. The ducts make it easier to set fibre properly and keep it functioning smoothly once installed.

Telkom notes the hearing, which concerned the complaint lodged in August, was postponed pending ICASA’s decision in the previous complaint as the complaints raise similar issues.

In a statement, MetroFibre says: “MetroFibre and Telkom were scheduled for a hearing at ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee around a dispute involving access to underground pipes in residential estates. MetroFibre can confirm that the CCC postponed today’s [Friday’s] hearing indefinitely.”

The company says the legal issues in this dispute are complex, and various similar disputes have been ongoing for a few years.

“The most published of these was the dispute between Telkom and Vodacom around access to underground pipes in the Dennegeur Estate. Unfortunately, MetroFibre cannot make further comment until the CCC and the courts clarify the legal complexities.”

In a similar case, in March last year, ICASA welcomed a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) against Telkom on a matter relating to the leasing of facilities between licensed operators.

The regulator said in this matter, Telkom sought to review ICASA’s decision that directed Telkom to lease its ducts to Vodacom in some residential estates in the Western Cape, as required in terms of section 43 of the Electronic Communications Act, 2005.

The High Court dismissed Telkom’s application with costs, said ICASA, adding that Telkom filed an application for leave to appeal, which was dismissed with costs.

Thereafter, it noted, Telkom petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal.

In its order, the SCA dismissed Telkom’s application for leave to appeal with costs on the grounds there were no reasonable prospects of success in an appeal and there was no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard.