SA cable broadband still relevant - Ispa

2011-08-08 14:42
Dominic Cull of Ispa has slammed Telkom as a broadband roadblock. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Dominic Cull of Ispa has slammed Telkom as a broadband roadblock. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Despite the exponential growth of wireless internet connectivity, cable broadband remains relevant in SA, the Internet Service Providers' Association (Ispa) said.

"The fibre is critical somewhere in the network, so even if I'm now getting an LTE 42mbps service from Vodacom, you're accessing the internet through that; you're getting to the closest base station. What happens once it gets to the base station? Fibre," Dominic Cull, Ispa regulatory advisor told News24.

Cull said that despite the rise in mobile wireless devices, broadband would continue to rely on cable for the foreseeable future.

"There's got to be fibre in your core network, even if your last mile is wireless," he said.

SA has seen an explosion of wireless devices and access to the internet via the wireless networks. Mobile operators have been racing to upgrade their networks as consumer demand for web access has expanded.

Unique position

"I think that it's absolutely correct to say that in South Africa, at the moment, there are more last-mile wireless broadband connections than there are wired," Cull said.

He warned that SA was in the unique position in that cable broadband was still a long way off, yet this medium is ideal to consume rich media online.

"We've got this gap now between the copper which is getting old and becoming legacy and people rolling out fibre to the home.

"Gated developments and businesses are where we'll see fibre last mile, but for actual consumers, we're quite a long way away," he said.

For rural communities, it is unlikely that cable broadband will ever be provided because of the cost factor, but Ispa insisted that the issue is centred on affordability rather than price.

"Time is difficult in this industry as you know. The future of rural broadband provision is wireless - there is no doubt.

"We already have close to 98% coverage of the country through the cellphone networks - but it's expensive. So we don't have an access problem, we have an affordability problem," said Cull.

Peering

The Seacom and Wacs (West Africa Cable System) broadband cables have played a major role in reducing broadband data pricing for South Africans, but there are challenges in the local market.

"In the last five years, pricing has come down dramatically. It's now cheaper to send your data to London, than it is from Cape Town to Johannesburg," Cull said.

Telkom and MWEB have been involved in a fight over peering and the cost to transport data since 2010.

The issue received attention when MWEB threatened to cut ties over the costs imposed by Telkom.

"So if you don't want to peer with us, that is it! We will not pay you one single cent anymore," fumed MWEB CEO Rudi Jansen at the time.

The issue remains relevant and Cull warned that it would boil over in the short term.

"That's going to break out into a real fight in the next two to three weeks."


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