Growing range of choices for SA Internet users
Market deregulation, falling prices of Broadband services and a growing appreciation of the business and personal benefits of Broadband are all driving massive adoption of Broadband services among South African small businesses and consumers.
That's according to Mark Taylor, managing director of independent telecom Service Provider, Nashua Mobile. He says that continuous price cuts from South Africa's major telecom operators, coupled with increased Network Coverage (especially from the cellular networks), have made always-on Internet access services accessible to a broader spread of South African consumers.
"Entry-level Broadband prices compare very favourably to dial-up when all the costs are added together, but even more importantly, dial-up simply doesn't allow users to enjoy all the benefits of the Internet," says Taylor.
Broadband allows users to send and receive large email files quickly and conveniently, make use of applications like streaming audio and video, as well as legal downloads of music and other entertainment.
Says Taylor: "New Broadband users suddenly find a whole new world of entertainment and productivity options at their fingertips. For example, we find many older people coming into our stores to investigate Broadband so that they can make cost effective voice-over-IP calls using applications like Skype to call children living overseas. Applications like online shopping are also far more viable all of a sudden."
Wireless technologies such as HSDPA are empowering operators and service providers to roll out Broadband Internet services in areas where there isn't a large enough market to justify the costs of laying down copper or fibre.
Consumers today can choose from a wide range of Internet access offerings including fixed-line ADSL; wireless Broadband from iBurst and Sentech; and, of course, cellular technologies (such as GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSDPA) from all three networks.
"The biggest challenge that a new Broadband Internet user faces is making sense of the complex range of technologies and packages on the market. The first step is to find out which technologies are available in your area," says Taylor. Those who live in large cities will generally have more choice, but some suburbs in even the major cities do not yet have ADSL-enabled exchanges or wireless Broadband Coverage.
"Once you know what technologies are available in your area, ask yourself what you want to use Broadband for, and, of course, what your budget is.
"Remember to take line rental charges, installation fees, Internet Service Provider (ISP) charges and costs for routers and modems into account in your budget," advises Taylor.
Most of the services are more than adequate for basic Web browsing and email, but some Broadband technologies are better suited to mobility, online gaming and other more specialised applications than others. People who want to be able to easily connect while travelling might opt for a cellular or wireless connection. Those who want to play online games or download big files might find ADSL to be a better option.
Many people look only at the speed of the connection, and don't take aspects such as latency into account, which are at least as important as upload and download speed for some applications. ADSL is also well suited to office applications because of its stability.
"The usage cap is also an important consideration when you're choosing a service. Some services are capped for fixed monthly fee - for example, standard ADSL packages come in 1Gb, 3Gb or 6Gb flavours. For most small offices, 3Gb is ample for standard Web browsing and email. Power users who want to download music or game demos might need more than that," says Taylor.
Concludes Taylor: "We're seeing a proliferation of choice for telecom customers. Options such as HSDPA didn't exist at all two years ago, and new technologies such as WiMax will also soon be reaching the market. The arrival of Neotel, a true competitor to Telkom, will also help to drive the growth of the Broadband market. There has never been a better time to get on board with Broadband than now."