Wireless technology seen dominating SA broadband

South Africa’s broadband market is expected to be dominated by mobile and wireless technologies as service providers and mobile networks look to reach a larger segment of the market with always-on internet access offerings, Nashua Mobile managing director Mark Taylor said on Wednesday.

Consumers will eventually be able choose between a range of wireless voice and data solutions ranging from fixed-lines to WiMax in metropolitan areas, Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, he added.

Wireless solutions enable operators to expediently deploy broadband internet services in areas where the size of the market would otherwise not justify the costs of laying down copper or fibre.

South Africa’s broadband penetration level stands at less than 1% while fixed-line density is at 10% with mobile penetration estimated at over 50%.

Fixed operators are rolling out technologies such as WiMax while mobile operators such as MTN and Vodacom have deployed solutions such as the third generation (3G) technology to provide customers with high-speed wireless data access.

Cell C looks set to deploy 3G later this year.

“Consumers are already benefiting from choice. No longer is Telkom the only company that can provide a broadband connection—other options such as Sentech and iBurst have come to market to compete,” Taylor added.

Telkom is already piloting WiMax along with many of its peers in Africa.

Since one base station can cover a large area in a city or town, WiMax is a promising way for operators in developing countries to ramp up the roll-out of broadband internet services in areas where there is little or no fixed-line infrastructure, said Taylor.

On the hurdles that have been delaying the licensing of the second national operator (SNO) for more than two years, Taylor said the delays have given Telkom time to consolidate in key corporate accounts and to build up cash-reserves it can use to undermine its eventual rival.

He said it may take a while before the SNO has the global links needed to compete with Telkom on the international bandwidth arena. Meanwhile, the yet-to-be licenced operator may have to buy bandwidth from Telkom until it builds up sufficient capacity of its own.

“That means international bandwidth will remain expensive in South Africa for some time,” Taylor continued. - I-Net Bridge

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