How to grow ADSL in South Africa

Internet service providers believe there is still life left in DSL, but that action is needed from Telkom to grow its ADSL and VDSL subscriber numbers.

By - March 25, 2016 Share on LinkedIn
ADSL text modem network

Telkom launched its first ADSL products in August 2002, and since then the number of subscribers has grown consistently.

Telkom’s trading update for the third quarter ending 31 December 2015 showed that its number of ADSL subscribers increased 3% to 1,018,107.

However, growth is slowing – and with the growing number of areas covered by fibre, ADSL is facing increased pressure.

Despite the challenges, local ISPs feel there is still potential for ADSL and VDSL services to grow in South Africa.

Here is what prominent ISPs told MyBroadband about the future of copper-based DSL in the country.


MWEB CEO Derek Hershaw

DSL is still a viable broadband technology, but Telkom must improve its fault resolution

Derek Hershaw Mweb

Hershaw said there is definitely room for ADSL to grow. “I think we are being premature in writing it off as a fixed-broadband technology.”

He said Telkom has invested heavily in deploying VDSL capabilities, and a 20Mbps or 40Mbps VDSL connection will be more than adequate for most households.

To grow ADSL and VDSL uptake, Hershaw said Telkom needs to get better at servicing line faults.

“A lot of people are turning to fibre only because they can’t wait 3 or 4 weeks to get their ADSL connection fixed.”

Hershaw said naked ADSL, where users do not pay analogue line rental, will also help to lower the barrier-to-entry for ADSL.

“I’m not sure that Telkom has the appetite for it in the near future, but they might be able to afford it on some of their higher-speed lines where the margins look better.”

A high-speed naked ADSL service will also “make it an attractive up-sell proposition for customers on entry-level line speeds”.


Crystal Web CEO Shaun Kaplan

Commercially-sensible facilities leasing from Telkom will help the growth of ADSL

Crystalweb logo dark

Kaplan said there “certainly is potential for strong DSL growth, and the two technologies (DSL and FTTH) can coexist to the benefit of consumers”.

Kaplan said a competitive wholesale environment is a great way to make the most of Telkom’s fixed-line infrastructure.

He said commercially-sensible facilities leasing from Telkom would go a long way to ensure the longevity of DSL-based offerings.

“This will provide much-needed investment into traditionally under-serviced network assets, to the benefit of all end-users and network operators.”


Afrihost director Greg Payne

Telkom must introduce naked ADSL and drop IPC prices to stimulate ADSL growth

Greg Payne

Payne said there is still potential for ADSL growth in South Africa, but that the growth of FTTH is going to outstrip DSL by a fair margin.

He said there are three things that can be done to stimulate ADSL and VDSL growth in South Africa:

  • Telkom must implement naked ADSL.
  • Telkom must drastically reduce the price of IPC bandwidth.
  • Telkom must upgrade exchange infrastructure to improve the end user’s experience.

Webafrica’s Greg Wright

We’re likely to see large numbers of ADSL customers convert to FTTH

Greg Wright, Webafrica

Wright said ADSL growth will be stimulated by the emergence of streaming services and other data-hungry applications.

However, this growth will short lived – around 2 to 3 years – as FTTH providers pass more and more homes. “We’re likely to see large numbers of ADSL customers convert to FTTH,” he said.

Wright said stimulating ADSL growth is simple: Introduce naked ADSL, decrease IPC prices, and upgrade exchanges to cater for VDSL connections.

“If some or all of these fall into place, it’ll allow fixed-line Internet providers to compete with mobile Internet providers.”


Axxess director Franco Barbalich

Franco Barbalich

There is still potential for strong ADSL growth in South Africa

Barbalich said there is still potential for strong ADSL growth due to the large amount of copper in the ground.

Barbalich said with the slow roll-out of fibre, they anticipate that DSL sales will continue to grow – but at a slower pace.

He said local loop unbundling, and a naked ADSL service, will help to stimulate ADSL growth.


Cybersmart CEO Laurie Fialkov

The ADSL market is saturated, which means there will not be big growth

Laurie Fialkov headlineFialkov said the ADSL market is saturated, which means there will not be big growth. However, there will not be a big decline in subscribers either.

While fibre is gaining momentum, Fialkov said there is no need for a fibre connection if a customer is happy with their current ADSL service.

“The 1Mbps ADSL product has a very competitive price, and this can help to grow the fixed-broadband market for people who are interested in basic online tasks.”

Fialkov said fibre has many advantages, like higher speeds and less local loop length constraints, but there are also some disadvantages.

“One of the challenges is bend radius, and another is how fragile the fibre cable is. For example, if you put the leg of your chair on a copper cable it will still work – do the same with your fibre cable and it is broken.”

“Finally, and probably most importantly, when talking about Telkom FTTH, it is really nothing more than ADSL with a medium change.”

“It is the same implementation – Telkom’s fibre-to-the-home is merely ADSL over fibre.”


More on broadband

How South Africa’s broadband speeds changed from 2007 to 2015

Best ADSL and VDSL speeds in South Africa

Free ADSL with Wi-Fi hotspot access coming to South Africa

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