News Column

What is driving broadband in SA?

September 3, 2014

Video is one of the biggest drivers of broadband uptake in SA, with FTTH set to be driven by TV into the future.

Multiple devices, social networking, video and education: these are some of the factors driving the uptake of broadband among South Africans.

This is according to local Internet service providers (ISPs) discussing the topic at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

Ultimately though, says Dr Marius Oberholzer, CEO of virtual service provider SAINET Internet, aggressive rollout by local infrastructure providers is to thank for the fact that individuals today can do and are doing ? much more than was possible 24 months ago.

"What is interesting is the connectedness of people today, with many having more than one device and, in the mobile space, the evolution to the social space. People are connecting in new ways, because they now can. The [growth and diversification in] broadband use is bigger than we could have envisaged just two years ago."

Jaap Scholten, MD of small and medium enterprise ISP, eNetworks, says education is one of the biggest drivers for broadband in the country, with video platform YouTube being a popular channel for students.

Instant messaging (IM) is another fast-growing online activity, notes Scholten. "The good news is that e-mail is plateauing. People are more and more opting for more instant services, so we are seeing a massive uptake in IM as opposed to e-mail."

Andrew Heuvel, executive for Telkom Internet, comments that video is a huge driving force and is set to become even more so as ISPs dissolve speed limitations. "Most of our traffic is video-based, with streaming growing steadily too. And uptake will increase, because as bandwidth constraints get taken away, broadband use changes."

The FTTH factor

Meanwhile, say ISPs, the rise of investment in fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services while in a relatively fledgling phase will be the driver of high-speed broadband services into the future.

Telkom chief operating officer Brian Armstrong says the company will launch pilots of its FTTH service in over 20 suburbs nationwide this December to gauge demand.

The killer app for FTTH, he says, will be television. "TV is the main driver towards the demand for high-speed broadband. Three-dimensional TV is here and 4K (Ultra HD) TV is coming."

Heuvel says he recently started testing FTTH and has seen a dramatic change in his behaviour as a user. "[Whereas] I used to use 3GB to 4GB per month on the 10GB capped package I was on, for the past four months I have been using over 260GB per month. So, it would appear when constraints are taken away, you consume more."

He says Telkom Internet's challenge is to serve the market looking for an uncapped service in terms of streaming. "Video not just streaming video, but security is becoming big as well, with [the advent of] the home centre automation concept. This type of thing will grow as the input cost for devices comes down. Many more will consume these services, and service providers have the challenge of offering cost-effective plug-and-play services."

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Source: ITWeb

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