How you connect to the Internet in South Africa

Connecting to the Internet may seem as simple as the click of a button, but there are many network components which make this happen.

[Also see: This is what South Africa’s Internet actually looks like and How South Africa is connected to the global Internet]

These connectivity components include home networks, last mile connections, metro networks, long-haul national connectivity, submarine cables, and Internet breakout points.

Speaking at the 2015 MyBroadband Cloud and Hosting Conference, Seacom’s Suveer Ramdhani provided a snapshot of the companies which make the Internet work in South Africa.

He explained that home networks (local area networks or LANs) connect to last mile connections, like fibre on your street or an ADSL service.

The last mile service connects to a metro network, which interconnects suburbs. This traffic is then carried to a local Internet service provider in a data centre, which often offers content services.

If your request cannot be served locally, your traffic is routed internationally via a national long-haul network and a submarine cable.

The traffic then passes through an Internet exchange point (INX) into the Internet, where the requested content or service resides.

The infographic below provides an overview of how it all fits together, and some of the prominent companies which offer these network services.

How you connect to the Internet

Where the broadband bottleneck lies

Ramdhani said that the broadband bottleneck in South Africa lies with last mile connectivity.

“The last mile is our last remaining problem,” said Ramdhani, adding that traditionally Telkom was the only real player in this market.

He explained that submarine cable systems represent a small total cost for broadband access, and there is more than enough capacity to serve South Africa’s needs.

He added that the national long-haul network landscape changed as well, with many players including Telkom, Broadband Infraco, Neotel, the National Long Distance network (Vodacom, MTN, Neotel), and FibreCo all offering services.

“Two years ago national backhaul capacity was very expensive. That changed quickly when Telkom and Neotel saw competition from DFA and FibreCo, which transformed the market.”

“The price for national backhaul capacity has dropped massively since 2009.”

The graphic below shows the breakdown of broadband price in relation to the actual distance it covers.


What needs to be done to improve broadband

The good news, said Ramdhani, is that South Africa is seeing new companies entering the last-mile market. The new fibre-to-the-premise providers include DFA, Vumatel, and LinkAfrica.

Ramdhani urged more South African companies to get involved in last mile infrastructure investment to alleviate the bottleneck.

He said the regulator urgently needs to provide Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Cell C with additional spectrum for wireless and LTE services, too.

The table below provides an overview of what can be done to improve connectivity in South Africa.


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How you connect to the Internet in South Africa