Mobile data 'to explode' in SA

2014-02-21 12:31
Mobile device data in SA is set to grow exponentially. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Mobile device data in SA is set to grow exponentially. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - South Africans complain about high data costs and the price of mobile devices, but despite that, the internet is set to grow exponentially, research shows.

According to IT infrastructure firm Cisco, mobile data in SA is set to spike.

"Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) reveals interesting growth figures and projects that mobile data traffic in South Africa will increase nearly eight-fold over the next five years and grow twice as fast as fixed IP traffic in South Africa," the company said.

Fixed line broadband access is regarded as limiting because of the expense related to laying down cable as well as the incumbent operator Telkom which has a virtual monopoly on the hardware.

Cisco predicts that mobile data traffic will dwarf the growth in cable broadband connections.

"From 2013 to 2018, Cisco anticipates that mobile traffic growth will be double fixed traffic growth in South Africa and that there will be 40 million mobile users by 2018, up from 38 million in 2013," the company said.

Broadband coverage

There are around six million cable last connections possible in the country, but according to Telkom only about 800 000 are broadband subscribers.

As smart devices become cheaper and data becomes more accessible, it is expected that South Africans will make increasing use of internet functionality on mobile devices.

The government has indicated its support for an expanded national broadband programme.

"The rollout of broadband is integrally linked to the growth of a 21st century economy and ultimately to addressing one of our country's pressing problems, the reduction of unemployment, especially amongst our youth," Communications Minister Yunus Carrim said recently.



The National Development Plan has set a goal of 100% broadband coverage in the country by 2020, but challenges remain.

According to the Draft National Broadband Policy, the challenge of fourth generation mobile spectrum has hindered the development of broadband.

"Institutional challenges associated with spectrum allocation, together with delays in the migration of analogue terrestrial broadcasting to digital, have meant that service innovation, increased competition, potential job opportunities and tax revenues have not been realised," the document says.

Setback

The delay in moving from analogue television to digital terrestrial television has been a critical setback for 4G mobile broadband. The 800MHz frequency ideal for broadband is occupied by analogue broadcasters like the SABC.

The policy further states that fourth generation wireless technology is critical to deliver broadband to South Africans.

"Deployment of high-speed wireless broadband services using 4G technologies is seen as crucial to delivering next-generation broadband services to South Africans and to overcoming the so- called 'digital divide' between connected urban citizens and those living in rural areas," the document says.

Cisco said that by 2018, 60% of mobile connections in the country will be "smart", from 20% last year.

The company also predicted that average mobile speed will double to 1 543kbps (kilobits per second) from the current 704kbps.

"Such growth is not only indicative of mobility becoming a critical characteristic of almost every network experience and the value consumers and businesses alike place on it, but it also represents the immense opportunities ahead for service providers who sit at the centre of the Internet of Everything," said Craig Zeeman, director of Transformation and Service Provider at Cisco South Africa.


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