How South Africa’s international bandwidth problem was solved

Many South African Internet users enjoy uncapped broadband access, and this is partly thanks to the availability of affordable international bandwidth in the country. However, this was not always the case.

When ADSL launched in 2002, there was only one data package: a 3GB bundle with unlimited local data.

The reason for the restrictive 3GB international data cap, Telkom said at the time, was due to expensive international bandwidth.

In 2002 South Africa only had one submarine cable system: SAT-3/SAFE. Telkom controlled this system, and the cost of international bandwidth was very expensive.

Speaking at the 2015 Cloud and Hosting Conference, Seacom’s Suveer Ramdhani said that international bandwidth cost as much as R24,000 per Mbps in 2002.

Things changed quickly in 2009 when Seacom entered the market, adding additional capacity and driving prices down.

In 2015 the international bandwidth constraints are no more, said Ramdhani, with four submarine cable systems serving the country: SAT-3/SAFE, Seacom, WACS, and EASSy.

Ramdhani added that less than 5% of Seacom’s maximum design capacity is currently used.

He said the cable is capable of carrying 5 Terabits per second of traffic. However, the optics currently deployed on the cable support a maximum capacity of 300 Gigabits per second.

He added that price cuts on international bandwidth continue, with an average price reduction of 50% each year.

Three images from Ramdhani’s presentation illustrate how the international cable system landscape has changed over the last 10 years.


Submarine cables - 2005
Submarine cables 2005


Submarine cables 2009
Submarine cables 2009


Submarine cables 2015
Submarine cables 2015

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How South Africa’s international bandwidth problem was solved