South African broadband legend Rudi Jansen dies

South African Internet pioneer Rudi Jansen has died after suffering a heart attack on Friday, MyBroadband has learned.

Jansen will be best remembered in the industry as the man who championed affordable and uncapped ADSL broadband in South Africa.

He was also behind the push for open peering between all networks in South Africa.

Jansen was a founding member of Mweb and helped with Naspers’ acquisition of Tencent Holdings.

As Mweb CEO, Jansen wanted to kick-start the company’s growth with a truly unique offering.

He set his management team the challenge of differentiating itself through uncapped products.

“It ended up being one of the most exciting projects within MWEB, and it really got the entire organisation focused. It was a wonderful period in the Mweb history,” Jansen told MyBroadband in a 2018 interview.

“We went from no network to one of the biggest networks in a space of 4 months.”

Mweb partnered with Seacom for affordable international bandwidth and purchased large amounts of wholesale ADSL capacity, called IP Connect, from Telkom.

One major obstacle that remained was peering. At the time, big telecoms operators were very protective of their networks and did not want to peer with Mweb.

“Nobody wanted to open up as they thought their own growth will stop, and they charged a fortune for transit between networks,” Jansen explained.

“It was easier to get peering in Europe than in South Africa.”

The solution to this problem was simple. Armed with enough affordable international bandwidth through Seacom, Mweb routed traffic to any local ISP who refused to peer via Europe as its peering links there were almost free.

Locally, Mweb peered for free with whoever it could — big or small.

These plans came together beautifully.

On 22 March 2010, Mweb achieved the unthinkable. It launched uncapped ADSL products starting at R219 per month, rocking the South African ISP market.

The talk in the industry was that Mweb had lost the plot.

Jansen was told that uncapped ADSL was not sustainable and that it will never work. A few competing ISPs even thought it was just a marketing stunt.

Jansen proved them all wrong and changed the South African broadband landscape forever.

Uncapped broadband is now more widespread and more popular than ever, and it has helped ignite many online industries in the country, including online gaming, streaming, and ecommerce.

After leaving Mweb in 2012, Jansen joined Odion Africa, where he helped search for new media and technology investments.

He held directorships at My Cloud Media, Dark Fibre Africa, and CapeVin Holdings.

Jansen’s achievements and significant impact on the industry were recognised with the MyBroadband Maverick of the Year Award in 2010, and the MyBroadband Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Jansen’s steadfast words in 2010 in the face of tremendous scepticism and adversity still echo today:

Anyone who thinks you can go back to a capped world is completely misguided. You can never go back. You can never offer an inferior service.

Reporting with Rudolph Muller.

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South African broadband legend Rudi Jansen dies