Earlier this year the telecoms community celebrated the long awaited telecoms license conversions where no less than 544 service providers were granted I-ECNS licences. These I-ECNS licenses give companies the right to build their own network to serve their customers, something which only a handful of providers could do previously.
The right to build and operate a network is a significant step in the local telecoms market, but ICASA is urged by industry players to now shift their attention to issues like spectrum allocation and local loop unbundling to enhance competition.
“The next issue that ICASA needs to urgently review is the way that frequency spectrum is allocated to network operators. Service providers need access to well-managed spectrum if they are to roll out their own high-quality wireless network services, rather than just leasing access on the existing networks owned by the incumbents,” ISPA said in a recent press statement.
Wi-Fi providers gaining ground
One group of telecommunications service providers which are not reliant on either spectrum allocation or local loop unbundling are the Wi-Fi providers. These providers typically use unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands for access and backhaul purposes.
Through aggressive pricing and targeting areas which are not covered by companies like Telkom, the Wi-Fi providers have been steadily gaining ground in the South African broadband market.
Apart from merely providing broadband access to residential consumers, some Wi-Fi operators are starting to expand into the business market with dedicated point-to-point links and leased line replacement services.
Wi-Fi versus ADSL pricing
One of the biggest draw cards of Wi-Fi access, when compared to ADSL, is price. Wi-Fi providers often offer uncapped services at a reasonable rate, something which is not typically found in the mostly capped ADSL market.
From anecdotal evidence it can be assumed that standard ADSL access will generally outperform a Wi-Fi service, but this will strongly depend on the providers involved. While some Wi-Fi providers use a few ADSL lines for backhaul and Internet bandwidth purposes, others have more dedicated bandwidth solutions to ensure better quality of service.
The following table provides a basic pricing comparison between a typical ADSL service and some Wi-Fi offerings.
|Amobia Wi-Fi||384 Kbps||400 MB||R 99|
|Uninet Wi-Fi||384 Kbps||1 GB||R 250|
|Telkom ADSL||384 Kbps||1 GB||R 323|
|Aerosat Wi-Fi||384 Kbps||Unlimited||R 295|
|Uninet Wi-Fi||256 Kbps||Unlimited||R 600|
|Axxess ADSL||384 Kbps||Unlimited||R 1275|
|Snowball Effect Wi-Fi||512 Kbps||3 GB||R 300|
|Uninet Wi-Fi||512 Kbps||3 GB||R 450|
|Telkom ADSL||512 Kbps||3 GB||R 660|
|Aerosat Wi-Fi||512 Kbps||Unlimited||R 495|
|Uninet Wi-Fi||512 Kbps||Unlimited||R 800|
|Axxess ADSL||512 Kbps||Unlimited||R 1949|
|Aerosat Wi-Fi||1 Mbps||Unlimited||R 950|
|Snowball Effect Wi-Fi||1 Mbps||Unlimited||R 1550|
|Axxess ADSL||1 Mbps||Unlimited||R 3236|
|Amobia Wi-Fi||3 Mbps||3 GB||R 499|
|Uninet Wi-Fi||1 Mbps||5 GB||R 650|
|Telkom ADSL||4 Mbps||3 GB||R 678|
ADSL versus Wi-Fi – give your views