Good news for Internet access in South Africa

There has been a substantial decrease in the number of households that don’t have access to the Internet in South Africa, the 2022 Census shows.

In the previous census conducted in 2011, 64.8% of surveyed households said they did not have Internet connectivity.

There were an estimated 14.4 million households in South Africa in 2011, which meant that roughly 9.3 million did not have access to the web.

In the latest count, the percentage of surveyed households without Internet access shrunk to 21.1%.

The Census 2022 estimated that households had grown to about 17.8 million, which suggests that about 3.8 million households do not have Internet connectivity.

From another perspective, the number of households with Internet in South Africa grew over three-fold — from less than 5.1 million to 15.8 million.

Households that only access the Internet from their places of work or elsewhere also decreased from 10.3% to 5%.

Whereas only 16.3% of households said they had a cellphone or mobile device in 2011, 60.5% had one in 2022.

There was also a slight increase from 8.6% to 13.3% of surveyed households who said they had a home broadband connection — working out to about 2.4 million homes.

The graph below from Stats SA shows how people’s access to the Internet in South Africa has changed since the last census.

Analytico’s 2022 South African Fibre Report showed network operators passed about 3.9 million homes with fibre — which is one of the most popular forms of home connectivity.

By June 2022, the ten biggest fibre network operators (FNOs) had roughly 1.3 million connected customers between them.

The outstanding households from the Census 2022 could be accounted for by those using alternative broadband products — like LTE, 5G, fixed-wireless, DSL, and satellite packages.

Since Analytico’s report was conducted, the number of households with fibre connections has continued to climb.

Not counting Herotel and Vodacom, at least 1.55 million homes were connected with fibre between the major operators by May 2023.

Shift towards lower-income connectivity

With FNOs starting to find it challenging to reach new middle-class and wealthier customers in a saturated market that also suffers from overbuilding in certain cities, the attention of some operators has shifted towards lower-income suburbs.

One of the earliest movers in this area is Vumatel.

The country’s biggest FNO has estimated that the maximum addressable market for its regular offering — Vuma Core — is 2.2 million homes.

It has already passed 906,315 of these homes with this network, which primarily consists of trenched fibre, meaning 41.2% of the addressable market has been reached.

In addition, there is heavy competition between FNOs within this segment, which means many of the remaining 58.8% might already be accounted for.

Vumatel argues that the lower-income markets offer greater potential — and this is where its low-cost Vuma Reach and ultra-low-cost Vuma Key products come in.

These products are rolled out in more densely populated areas and use aerial fibre and one-to-many ONT installations to reduce costs.

The FNO has estimated there are approximately 4.8 million homes to which it could offer Vuma Reach and 9.7 million homes that could afford Vuma Key.

MyBroadband recently got our first look at Vuma Key being piloted in the Alexandra township.

The four households we interviewed were full of praise for Vumatel for providing them with affordable fibre connectivity that radically reduced their monthly data expenses.

Individual subscribers paid up to R250 per month for the service but can resell lines to other users in multi-unit dwellings to share the cost.

Now read: Sixth African country gets Starlink before South Africa — for R706 per month

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Good news for Internet access in South Africa