South Africa has recently surpassed the 1 million broadband subscriber mark on the back of strong growth in mobile broadband.
Currently Telkom still leads the broadband race with 412 000 ADSL subscribers, followed by Vodacom with 370 000 HSDPA data card users, MTN with 120 000 data cards, iBurst with 61 000 subscribers and 50 000 users served by WISPs, or wireless internet service providers. Sentech’s broadband subscriber base is negligible.
This places the total number of broadband subscribers at 1 013 000, made up of 412 000 DSL users and 601 000 wireless broadband subscribers. This equates to 41% DSL subscribers 59% wireless users.
Out of the 235 million broadband subscribers in the OECD region, 145 million are DSL subscribers, 67 million use cable modems and 19 million uses fibre and LAN to connect. A mere 4 million makes use of other connectivity methods such as wireless technologies.
This translates into 62% of all OECD broadband users using DSL, 28% using cable modems, 8% on fibre and LAN and 2% using other technologies.
It is also interesting to note that there is a trend in the OECD to upgrade DSL and cable modem connections to fibre. Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) subscriptions make up 8% of all broadband connections in the OECD. Fibre connections account for 40% of all Japanese broadband subscriptions and 34% in Korea.
SA situation unique
In the OECD countries 98% of all broadband connections are fixed line services while South Africa has a 60-40 split in favour of wireless connections.
The reasons for this split is well known: Expensive and generally poor ADSL services, aggressively priced wireless broadband services with early technology adoption from the cellular providers and a lack of competition in the fixed-line ADSL market.
Internationally, wireless broadband services simply cannot compete against fixed line offerings such as ADSL, cable modem or fibre on price, speed and monthly usage limits.
In South Africa wireless and mobile broadband offerings are often more affordable and faster-than-DSL offerings, encouraging users to opt for a wireless service as a primary broadband connection.
This trend is likely to continue in South Africa with wireless broadband providers growing their share of the broadband market year on year.