New research on internet accessibility confirms that the amount of South African being able to access the internet by means of broadband connection has exploded by more than 50% during the past year – a direct consequence of the escalating necessity for round-the-clock connectivity.
The Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and Cisco, reveals that the vast majority of expansion in fixed line broadband emanates from small and medium sized organizations upgrading to ADSL.
Consequently, this has expanded access to the internet to well over half-a-milion South Africans employed in small offices who did not until now have access.
Furthermore, it unveils that wireless broadband subscriptions have increased by 88% during the past year as opposed to 21% for fixed-line ADSL subscriptions, predominantly as a result of large companies providing 3G cards to employees who require to remain connected while out of the office.
“Wireless broadband is neither cheaper nor better quality, however it is far more convenient and flexible, additionally it transforms the way we think about where and how we make use of the internet,” World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said.
The supply of both fibre access and new licences in addition has started a 18% rise in the number of internet access and service providers in South Africa.
‘The connected life’
Based on the study, numerous workers in South Africa today are capable of doing their jobs in or out of the office – “the connected life” – that enables employees to be productive, responsive and creative in or out of their conventional office spaces.
Remote or mobile workers are able to instantaneously gain access to business-essential applications, colleagues, and partners worldwide without regard for their location, the study reveals, adding the fact that this capability to collaborate and share information in real-time will certainly improve business productivity and profitability throughout the region.
“A mobile broadband connection can be described as a key enabler of the ‘connected life’,” said Cisco South Africa senior manager Reshaad Sha. “Cisco Internet Business Solutions group describes ‘connected life’ services as those services that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, on any device and by anyone.”
Terrestrial fibre-optic networks
Although the study in addition reports on the current and expected influence of the new undersea cables, that happen to be making a lot of the headlines in Internet news lately, it also examines, for the very first time, the impact of the roll-out of terrestrial fibre-optic networks throughout South Africa.
As opposed to undersea cables that connect the country to the world, terrestrial fibre extends that connectivity directly into the major cities and towns, where businesses and consumers are connected in turn.
“The combination of new undersea cables and terrestrial fibre-optic networks would mean that we are experiencing the beginning of the next generation of connectivity technology, both in fixed line and wireless services,” said Goldstuck.
“The absent ingredients at this point are the next generation of customer access devices for those people who are connected, and reasonably priced availability of access for those people who are not.”
In the event that all present-day cable projects come to fruition by 2011, the overall capacity of undersea cables linking Africa to the rest of the world will have increased 150-fold over 2008. At the end of 2009, the capacity was 1 690 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps). At the end of 2010 it will be 5 410 Gbps, and a year later 14 770 Gbps.
Convergence of services
The research at the same time delves into the influence internet access is having on South Africa, from enhanced access to government information services to new trends in entertainment and education.
Coming from a data perspective, consumers are utilizing the internet to develop blogs and personal websites with text, pictures and video, while the convergence of formally disparate services – voice, video and data – also has made available an assortment of new experiences, for instance the integration of broadcast TV, video on demand (VoD) and telephony services.
“The diverse range of services and the demand consumers have begun placing on Internet based application services seems to have fuelled the uptake that we see today. Internet access speeds really do need to scale in order to meet the demands of applications and services, especially those that are video enabled,” said Sha.
“The network build outs that we are experiencing in South Africa happen to be positive steps towards the delivery of feature rich Internet services that the majority of developed countries are already enjoying.”