How ADSL in South Africa can be fixed

It’s no secret that ADSL services across South Africa are under pressure, with subscribers continuously complaining on social media about poor network performance.

The reasons for the bad connectivity South African broadband users experience are diverse, and raise questions about whether we’re worse off than we were at the start of the year, and what can be done to improve matters.

[Also read: This is why your broadband sucks in South Africa]

Speaking to a few of South Africa’s Internet service providers, the feedback was generally that there is a problem, or that progress isn’t as far along as they’d like.

Webafrica

Greg Wright, Webafrica
Greg Wright, Webafrica

Webafrica said that ADSL in South Africa is worse than at the start of the year.

“ISPs have put IPC upgrades ‘on ice’ pending a decision on whether or not to take the Telkom IPC deal,” said the company.

IPConnect or IPC is Telkom’s wholesale product for ADSL bandwidth, called Internet Protocol Connect.

The “Telkom IPC deal” Webafrica refers to is the offer from Telkom to ISPs to pay 15% more for IPC and get double their existing IPC capacity.

Webafrica said the delay in deciding on whether to take up the Telkom IPC deal or not has put a lot of pressure on network performance.

“Fortunately, this is coming to a head and we should see improvements all-round in the next few weeks.”

Asked what can be done to improve the state of ADSL in South Africa, Webafrica said that all the usual answers still apply:

  • A transparent arm’s length relationship between Telkom Retail and Wholesale.
  • Unbundling the local loop.
  • Naked ADSL.

Naked ADSL refers to offering ADSL services without subscribers having to subscribe to a voice line service as well, which currently costs R189 per month.

“We’d also love to see a fully-functioning Telkom line management API up and running as most of our customer care contacts arise from line issues.”

Cybersmart

Laurie Fialkov
Laurie Fialkov

Cybersmart said the ADSL experience is generally worse from a customer’s perspective since the start of the year, but that it doesn’t believe it is caused by Telkom.

It agreed with Webafrica’s assessment that ISPs were waiting for Telkom’s IPC deal to come through, which means that IPC is probably more oversold than it should be.

Asked what can be done to improve ADSL, Cybersmart jokingly said: “I hope nothing, it makes the case for our FTTH products that more convincing.”

Cybersmart said it does not believe Telkom has any plans to fix copper-based ADSL.

“The only thing they could have done was reduce the cost of IPC so ADSL is overall less contended, and they have done that already.”

Afrihost

Afrihost logo
Afrihost

Afrihost said ADSL is moving forward in South Africa, just not at the pace they would like.

“The barrier to entry in terms of price is still making mobile a more attractive offer to families and small businesses – paying only for data versus paying high monthly rental fees and for voice line rental as well,” the ISP said.

Asked what can be done to improve ADSL, Afrihost agreed with Web Africa that naked ADSL needs to be an option for consumers.

It also advocated for ongoing, significant reductions in IP Connect costs so that savings can be passed onto the public.

“We need faster roll-out of new infrastructure, including high-speed fibre to the exchanges and to give more people access to DSL services, as this is still the cheapest option (in terms of per GB rate) for providers to offer value for money.”

MWEB

Derek Hershaw Mweb
Derek Hershaw, MWEB

MWEB said it has a lot of capacity in its network, and is provisioning more capacity per subscriber than it did at the start of the year.

“But it’s more about what happens on the other side of our IPC nodes,” said MWEB.

It explained that although Telkom’s core network appears to have enough capacity, their backhaul and last-mile network seems to be inconsistent.

“Some customers get a decent experience and others not. It can vary quite a lot from exchange to exchange, and even within the same exchange some Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers (DSLAMs) are congested and others not.

On the topic of improving ADSL in South Africa, MWEB said the answer wasn’t easy, but to start:

  • Telkom needs to address the exchanges and DSLAMs that are congested.
  • Response times on line faults need to come down significantly. “You can’t expect customers to wait 2–3 weeks for someone to come out and repair a fault.”

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How ADSL in South Africa can be fixed