Looking back at our beloved country’s development over the past decade, at least from a technological perspective or in this case an ‘internet’ perspective. One has to admit, that even though our Government has its faults (ok, ok, loads of them) and while it still to date owns a healthy share in our ‘favourite’ national telecoms company, it has to be said that we have still come a long, long way technologically in terms of internet access.
Remember the days when Yahoo (who still uses that?) was your main search engine tool and getting there entailed waiting for the buzz, brrr and grrr sound of from your 56K dial up modem to finish doing its thing? Followed by a leisurely stroll to the kitchen to make your coffee while you waited for the web page to load, one painstaking image at a time?
That was only back in 2002, and nowadays we have the new and exciting “VDSL” (or at least some of us do already) providing us with fixed, always-on internet access at speeds of up to 40 Megabits per second. Amazing, that’s around 730+ times the speed of your old dial-up! That’s a pretty big jump in just over a decade.
While VDSL is still in its infancy at this stage and the current norm is standard “ADSL”, even then the slowest speeds we now get starts at 1 Megabits per second with Telkom already having stipulated earlier last month that they will yet again be upgrading the national network (from November 2013) such that 2 Megabits per second will become the new minimum ADSL access speed and that’s still around 37 times faster than your old dial up!
When VDSL is eventually rolled out countrywide and takes over from its smaller brother ADSL (over the next couple of years) this would place South Africa right up there with the rest of the ‘first world’ countries and their fixed internet access offerings.
Naturally, Telkom itself did not simply decide one day to start getting the South African network up to scratch. Rather this was in fact something that they were pressured into, by way of a two pronged attack, that being the general public and the private ISPs.
The ISPs clearly were pressured themselves by their own clients and in turn began to tackle Telkom one court case at a time. Government were not spared either, and were also eventually forced to change the laws (after a landmark court ruling, thanks mostly to Alcatel), that allowed all private ISPs at the time to obtain the exact same licenses that Telkom had enjoyed for so many years before, allowing ISPs for the first time to create and use their own infrastructure which connected directly into Telkom’s network (albeit at a hefty price from Telkom, but that’s been coming down little by little and is still another currently contested topic with ISPs and the regulator ICASA, who are nipping at Telkom’s heels).
This then was the catalyst that has led to where we find ourselves today; enjoying fast always-on internet that is not too far behind the rest of the world and that is generally quite affordable. This then finally broken the shackles and made the internet in South Africa a real marketplace… and so began the ISP price wars.
We’ve gone from seeing 384K Uncapped ADSL prices of R2500+ per month to 1Mbps Uncapped ADSL from R199 per month and it feels like it’s all happened in the blink of an eye.
So I for one would like to thank all the ISPs and the disgruntled public that kept the fires burning in the desire for faster and faster internet and hope that the trend keeps on steaming along.
Well, we now have one last stumbling block in the road and that is one that unfortunately Telkom is holding onto very tightly, it’s called “local loop unbundling”.
Well, it’s what ISPs have been fighting for, for quite some time now. It would force Telkom to unbundle ADSL from its voice network, essentially stopping them from being allowed to force you to have to have an active voice line through them directly before being allowed to get your hands on a DSL connection. So by unbundling, you would be able to activate ADSL/VDSL on any land line directly through your ISP without the need for a voice service from Telkom and so Telkom would never need to be involved with or paid by you. The ISPs would have direct access to the ADSL/VDSL grid, making it cheaper, a lot cheaper.
Also these days we have Voice over IP (VoIP) that allows us to call overseas and even locally at very cheap rates and the best part is, with VoIP your number simply goes with you wherever you move in the country!
So, let’s hope that the last hurdle is accomplished soon and local-loop unbundling takes place and VDSL becomes the new de facto. Then, for the first time, we truly would be out of deepest darkest Africa and into the big bright high-speed lanes of the internet, waving as we pass our American and European friends next to us!
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.