SA’s broadband usage to double

6 December 2005

South Africa’s broadband internet population is set to almost double in the next year, according to a new survey by technology research firm World Wide Worx.

Their report, “Broadband in South Africa 2005”, shows that 147 000 South Africans enjoy high-speed internet access, and predicts that this figure will reach 266 000 in 2006.

Growth rate
“It’s the kind of growth rate we saw in the early years of internet take-up in South Africa,” said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck, “but it’s still going to be a big disappointment for some operators.

“Those who are investing in broadband roll-out expect instant take-up by the public, and that simply does not happen in what is still a luxury category.”

2005 saw the release of a number of new broadband product categories in South Africa, the most successful of which has been Telkom’s ADSL service. Telkom, the parastatal with a fixed-line monopoly, holds two-thirds of the market. Goldstuck believes that this is unlikely to change significantly in the next year.

A second national fixed-line operator is expected to be licensed by the end of 2005, ending Telkom’s monopoly. The new operator may enter the wholesale market, although it is not yet known what effect this will have on consumers.

Third generation
“The good news is that we are seeing real choice beginning to emerge, not just among the five broadband providers, but also within the product range of each of the operators,” Goldstuck said.

In the past year, Vodacom and MTN, South Africa’s two leading cellular providers, have joined the broadband market with their 3G services.

3G refers to the third generation of cellular data transfer, giving users download rates of up to 384 kps.

The other broadband providers in South Africa are the two wireless providers, Sentech and WBS.

“The premium offerings may be expensive, but for the ordinary user with average internet needs, there is a price point to suit the pockets of most working people who have computers and phones at home.”

Digital divide
Despite the growth in broadband use, the vast majority of South Africans do not have ready access to the internet.

“Technology by itself won’t change the lives of the disadvantaged,” said Goldstuck.

“For that you need a commitment from government, and that commitment must run from top to bottom. In the absence of meaningful policy leadership, access to technology will remain the domain of the privileged.” reporter

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