Bandwidth In South Africa Explained

The future of online access and the development of bandwidth and broadband providers across the world is steadily growing in numbers, offering small users, medium sized businesses and large companies high speed, quality internet access. South Africa is one such country on the road to improving this opportunity. Below is a look at bandwidth as it currently stands in South Africa.

What Is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth, including digital bandwidth and network bandwidth, refers to the amount of data that is carried from one point to another (i.e.: data transfer rate) in a given time period, usually not much more than a single second. Bandwidth of this kind is usually expressed in bits of data per second (bps) and occasionally as bytes per second (Bps). For example, a modem that operates at 57 600 bps has twice the bandwidth of one that works at 28 800 bps.

Bandwidth In Web Hosting
The term “bandwidth”, when referring to website hosting (internet hosting service), is often misused in order to describe the maximum amount of transferred data to or from a website or server during a specific period of time. Bandwidth consumption that is accumulated over a period of a month is measured in Gigabytes. This is known as monthly data transfer. In short, bandwidth in web hosting is quite simply the amount of traffic that is allowed to occur between one website and the remainder of the internet.

Bandwidth In South Africa
South African Bandwidth Costs
Cost of bandwidth in South Africa has a short history of costing exorbitant amounts of money for very little in return. As a result, stimulating growth of internet usage in South Africa is somewhat hampered if the costs are not affordable. In fact the very reason why internet user growth is slow or virtually non existent is as a result of high bandwidth costs.

During mid 2008, Telkom agreed to work with an incentive programme set in place by the Department of Trade and Industry to significantly decrease the costs of bandwidth for the Business Process Outsourcing and Offshoring (BPO&O) industry in South Africa. In the year 2004, two megabits of bandwidth was costing approximately R250 000 a month. This cost was reduced to R200 000 per month in 2005, R135 000 in 2006, R105 000 in 2007 and R88 000 in 2008 for the same amount of bandwidth. It is believed by many, as well as the Internet Society (ISOC) that bandwidth and broadband internet, ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) and 3G access can help to bridge the digital divide in the country and thus with cheaper costs, offer the World Wide Web to far more of South Africa’s population.

Bandwidth Providers
Of the many in South Africa, the main bandwidth providers in the country are:

  1. Telkom – largest national operator
  2. Neotel – second largest national operator
  3. Sentech
  4. iBurst
  5. Vodacom
  6. The Internet Solutions (IS)
  7. Mweb

In The News
A recent announcement was made regarding the construction of the West Africa Cable System (WACS). A formal agreement has been made between all of South Africa’s major telecommunications operators which is set to allow total international bandwidth capacity to come into Africa which is expected to grow more than a hundredfold by the end of 2011.

A study conducted by World Wide Worx in December 2008 revealed that international bandwidth available to sub-Saharan Africa was no more than 80 Gigabits per second. This amount was split up between the Telkom (a semi privatised wireline and wireless telecommunications provider that is 39% state owned) controlled SAT3/SAFE cable and West Africa’s Atlantis-2 cable (fibre-optic cables). Bandwidth capacity is, however, expected to rise to approximately 10 Terabits per second by the year 2011. This growth increase will largely be as a result of an upgrade being done to Telkom’s SAT3 cable. Three major, new cables are also expected to become operational during 2009, as well as another two in 2010. A WACS cable will also be in operation in 2011.

New cables (undersea cable operators) that have been confirmed to serve Western, Eastern and Southern Africa include:

  • SEACOM – due to become operational by the end of June 2009
  • GLO-1 – is ready for operation during 2009
  • TEAMS – due to become operational by the end of September 2009
  • EASSy – due to become operational by June 2010
  • MainOne – due to become operational during 2010
  • WACS – due to become operational during 2011

In Conclusion
South Africa is hard at work to create affordable bandwidth that is set to become available to more of its population, and thus grow its number of internet users with sufficient and user friendly access. Broadband has changed the dynamics of internet accessibility and growth performance in vast ways world wide. Like the rest of the world, South Africa is learning how to grow internet user numbers with bandwidth costs playing a key role.

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