Broadband boom time

More broadband connectivity options are becoming available locally, with many providers offering a choice of fixed line, wireless and mobile data connectivity services.

Prices of these services vary, depending on the service provider, the data capacity required and in some cases connectivity speeds, and are available from ISPs, mobile operators and cellular service providers.

ADSL services are being advertised at prices from R195 a month to R579, iBurst from R69 to R1 099, including a modem, MyWireless from R299 to R2 099, including a modem, and HSDPA/3G mobile data services from R249 to R2 049, including a data card or modem.

Mark Taylor, CEO of Nashua Mobile, says the company’s research shows that the total number of broadband users in SA has grown from 300 000 to 600 000 since August last year.

“We are signing up 3 000 new broadband customers a month.”

Nashua has signed a wholesale agreement with Telkom to offer bundled services that include an ADSL line and internet access and charge the user on one account. It also has a wholesale agreement with iBurst and has signed up 1 800 users on this service over the past 18 months.

Colin Pinkham, business development executive for Verizon Business’s Cape Town region, says smaller businesses are seeing the value of having permanent access to the internet with broadband connectivity, especially those with many branches.

For example, estate agents can communicate with customers and send then high-quality photographs of houses over the internet, which would be slow and more costly using a dial-up line.

For a manufacturing company that has up to 10 factories around the country and up to 50 different suppliers, it would be better to install leased lines between the larger production plants.

But its smaller factories and suppliers could link to the network using broadband connections, says Pinkham.

An ISP like Verizon will arrange the physical link and then manage and monitor the service to ensure it is always up and running.

Pinkham says Verizon provides ADSL, 3G/HSDPA and iBurst broadband connectivity and has Sentech’s Biznet service on trial.

A number of service providers are running trials with WiMAX, a new wireless technology standard capable of providing connectivity speeds up to 72 megabits per second (mbps) over distances of up to 50km. But as with other shared wireless services, actual connectivity speeds depend on factors such as the number of users connecting to an access point and the spectrum capacity of the service provider.

WiMAX services are expected to be available commercially before the end of the year n SA, although local service providers are talking about offering speeds of up to 2mbps or 3mbps initially.

Prices are expected to be on par with other broadband offerings, or perhaps even cheaper.

Alphonzo Samuels, broadband officer at Telkom, says Telkom has built 14 base stations that will provide WiMAX services, and is planning to install another 57 by the end of this year.

He says the new service will initially be used to provide broadband connectivity in areas where ADSL coverage does not reach and where there is sufficient demand.

WBS, which owns iBurst, has a full operating license for WiMAX and has put it on trial for four months with customers.

The initial objective is to offer WiMAX to businesses at speeds of up to 3Mbps, and to extend this to mobile coverage when the support equipment is available, says MD Alan Knott-Craig Jnr.

“WBS will build the network and Vodacom will be a service provider on that network.”

Verizon Business, MWEB and Internet Solutions all have WiMAX test licenses and are running pilot service with customers or are planning to do so.

Initially, users will have antennas on top of a house or business premises to be able to receive the signal for WiMAX.

But with the mobile version of WiMAX, which is in the pipeline, users will be able to move between base stations and remain connected to the network, much in the same way they now can with cellular communication.

Intel is incorporating WiFi and WiMAX capabilities in a single chip for laptop computers so that users can roam between the two.

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Broadband boom time