South Africa’s fixed line broadband speeds lag badly behind global standards, and by the look of things this will not change any time soon.
Internationally, fibre to the home (FTTH) is growing in popularity and pushing up broadband speeds, but in South Africa ADSL is likely to remain the dominant fixed line broadband service in years to come.
This is the conclusion from a panel discussion at the recent Submarine Networks World Africa 2011 conference which focused on fibre networks in Africa.
According to Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) CEO Gustav Smit there are many initiatives in South Africa when it comes to international, national and metropolitan fibre networks, but there are no large scale last mile access fibre projects.
Smit said that DFA typically does not get involved in access networks, adding that it is regrettable to see the lack of interest from telecommunications players in South Africa to invest in last mile fibre services.
Smit said that telecoms providers are simply not selling fibre access services despite the fact that they are provided with access to DFA’s metro-fibre networks right in front of business buildings.
Considering the lack of interest in providing businesses with fibre access and the slow rollout of fibre across South Africa, Smit predicted that it will take “a very long time” before FTTH will arrive in South Africa in significant numbers.
World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said that while FTTH may be some time off, there are initiatives by municipalities and other organizations to connect businesses and houses to metro-fibre networks. Goldstuck qualified that high density environments are needed to make the system work, a view shared by many telecoms players.
Smit in turn said that fibre and bandwidth pricing can go down considerably if the infrastructure is used efficiently – which essentially means that more people should be connected to the fibre backbones. “It is a numbers game,” said Smit.
Diarmid Massey, Vice President of Carrier Sales at Cable & Wirelesss, said that the wrong question was asked (when we will see FTTH?), and that the right question is: how we can create better mobile networks to serve Africa’s Internet needs?
Massey said that replicating an FTTH modem from Western Europe in Africa will not work, and that mobile and wireless technologies will serve Africa’s needs far better.