Cape Town - The ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which manages the .za domain, announced on Friday that the number of local internet domains had passed the one million mark milestone.
The number indicates a growing internet market, despite the poor infrastructure and stagnant implementation of policy.
"The ZA Central Registry (ZACR) confirms that today's (Friday 23 January) tally of registered, active domain names ending in .za is 1 001 464," the organisation said.
The registry manages co.za, web.za, org.za, net.za domains, as well as the recently launched cTLDs (city Top Level Domains) of .capetown (dotCapeTown), .joburg (dotJoburg) and .durban (dotDurban).
"When the first .za domains were registered in 1992, few in the South African internet industry ever expected the total to ever go beyond 100 000, let alone ten times that amount. The one million milestone represents a great vote of confidence in the world class .za domain name system," said Lucky Masilela, CEO of ZACR.
But despite that success, the battle for the internet in SA rages as telecom giants size each other up for their share of the growing ecosystem.
Vodacom faces objections from rivals as the mobile operator pushes for regulatory approval over its R7bn deal to buy Neotel.
"Yes, the deal may make life tougher for our competitors - particularly Telkom - because they will need to raise their game to compete with the merged Vodacom-Neotel," said Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub in remarks during public hearings into the deal.
Government policy calls for 100% internet access by 2020, but there are significant hurdles to the implementation of the policy.
High speed internet access is key to economic growth in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
According to the former department of communications' presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Communications, in 2013, 33.3% of the South African population had internet access.
However, the department (now renamed the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services) submitted ambitious targets of 50% access at 5mbps by 2016, 90% by 2020, and 100% at 10mbps by 2030.
How this will be achieved is a significant challenge according to the government's South Africa Connect: Creating Opportunities, Ensuring Inclusion South Africa's Broadband Policy.
"Significant growth in the ICT sector over the last decade has not been accompanied by the realisation of the primary policy objective of affordable access for all to the full range of communications services that characterises modern economies," says the policy document.
"The slow deployment of fixed broadband services (ADSL), and its relatively high costs, meant that over the last five years mobile broadband rapidly became the primary form of broadband access; rather than providing a complementary service to fixed broadband as it has done in mature economies."
While cable broadband is ideal for rich media consumption such as video and gaming, the lack of open access policy from Telkom means that mobile will be most people's first taste of the internet.
Meanwhile, regional demand for data is huge.
According to data from Ericsson's Mobile Data Traffic Growth report for 2013 to 2019, the Sub-Saharan Africa region's data consumption in 2013 was 37 500 terabytes (TB) and expected to reach 76 000TB in 2014.
The appetite in the region is expected to grow at 65% to 2019 and beyond, especially as people consume video online.
Put into perspective, mobile data in the region will jump to 380 000TB by the end of 2017, on its way to a mammoth 764 000TB by the end of 2019.
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