Broadband penetration: It’s not looking good for South Africa

The OECD released new statistics on broadband penetration in OECD countries, showing just how far South Africa is behind

December 6, 2010
Broadband penetration: It’s not looking good for South Africa

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released new statistics today on the broadband penetration in OECD countries as of June 2010.

The latest statistics include the number of broadband subscribers per country, broadband subscriptions by technology, percentage of fibre connections in total broadband and, for the first time, a wireless broadband penetration indicator.

There were 294 million fixed broadband subscriptions in June 2010 in the OECD area. This was up from 283 million in December 2009. The average penetration rate has grown to 24.3 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, up from 23.3.

Fibre continues its growth relative to other fixed broadband technologies, with fibre accounting for half of all broadband connections in Japan (55%) and Korea (52%). Other leading countries include the Slovak Republic (28%), Sweden (24%) and Denmark (12%).

DSL is still the most widely used technology in the OECD, accounting for 58% of all lines. Cable makes up 29% and fibre based connections have grown to 12% of all lines.

The OECD’s first wireless broadband penetration indicator accounts for satellite, terrestrial fixed wireless and mobile broadband subscriptions.

Korea (95.0%), Sweden (75.6%), Japan (75.3%) and Norway (72.8%) have the highest wireless broadband penetration in terms of subscriber per 100 inhabitants.

Among the countries which have been able to report complete data, standard mobile broadband subscriptions usually represent the majority of wireless broadband connections.

Satellite and terrestrial fixed wireless subscriptions represent a small share of wireless broadband subscriptions. Its penetration rate is slightly higher only in the Czech Republic (6.5), the Slovak Republic (3.0) and Ireland (2.2).

South Africa

South Africa’s broadband penetration rate is currently hovering at around 7%, made up mainly of around 2 million Vodacom subscribers, 700 000 Telkom ADSL users, and 700 000 MTN broadband users.

The country’s fixed line broadband penetration rate of 1.4% is however significantly worse than the OECD’s 24.9%, a problem which the Department of Communications plans to solve through Local Loop Unbundling (LLU).

South Africa’s wireless broadband penetration rate of just over 5.5% is also not exceptional when compared with the OECD’s average of 36.7%.

The near absence of fibre connections in South Africa further means that the country is not well positioned to become more competitive in future, especially when considering that many countries such Australia, the UK  and the United States have aggressive projects to boost fibre connectivity.

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