South Africans have minimal choice of fibre provider — ISPA

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) has released the results of its Open Access Network (OAN) mapping project, revealing that many customers in the country have no choice of fibre service provider.

This is according to Sasha Booth Beharilal, ISPA chairperson, who said the results show that customers don’t get the pricing and quality benefits of infrastructure or service-based competition.

An OAN is an open infrastructure network that provides wholesale fibre services to ISPs to be sold to end users.

ISPA carried out a mapping survey of the country’s OANs in partnership with 28East.

It found that nationally, 33 million South Africans — 54% of the country’s population — live in a location where at least one fibre network operator (FNO) provides services.

27 million residents, or 46% of the population, aren’t yet covered.

“Of those who have at least one FNO providing service, more than a third have no choice of operator,” ISPA said.

The tables below provide a breakdown of the mapping results based on population and the number of households.

Region Population No OAN Monopoly OAN Choice of OAN
Eastern Cape 6,735,599 69% 15% 15%
Free State 2,949,107 63% 22% 15%
Gauteng 15,652,452 13% 23% 64%
KwaZulu-Natal 11,660,403 60% 17% 23%
Limpopo 5,766,375 81% 11% 8%
Mpumalanga 4,725,254 68% 15% 17%
North West 4,151,744 63% 22% 16%
Northern Cape 1,308,270 59% 27% 14%
Western Cape 7,092,792 7% 24% 69%
National 60,041,996 46% 19% 35%
Region Households No OAN Monopoly OAN Choice of OAN
Eastern Cape 1,640,821 64% 17% 19%
Free State 946,596 61% 23% 17%
Gauteng 5,555,383 14% 23% 63%
KwaZulu-Natal 2,912,560 52% 20% 29%
Limpopo 1,530,180 78% 12% 10%
Mpumalanga 1,297,621 67% 15% 18%
North West 1,328,752 62% 22% 16%
Northern Cape 372,562 60% 27% 14%
Western Cape 2,099,500 7% 23% 70%
Grand Total 17,683,975 40% 20% 39%

Residents in Gauteng and the Western Cape are most likely to have fibre coverage and various FNOs to choose from, while residents of Limpopo are the least well-served.

It should be noted that the study’s data was somewhat limited as it could only survey networks that published mapping data.

“This means that some consumers may still be able to purchase fibre services from closed network operators in locations where no open access networks operate,” ISPA said.

It added that there are also limitations to the scale at which overlapping maps can be analysed.

“An FNO providing service in a suburb does not always provide service to all streets in the suburb so coverage in densely populated areas may be less than these figures suggest,” it said.

“Despite these limitations, ISPA believes that the study gives a good high-level picture of the state of fibre-based internet access in South Africa.”

It also compared coverage to household income, revealing a clear focus among FNOs on covering the highest-earning households in the country.

“Coverage and competition for lower-income households lag behind,” said ISPA.

The results of its coverage versus household income survey are summarised in the table below.

Region Highest quintile income households No OAN Monopoly OAN Choice of OAN
Eastern Cape 210,128 29% 20% 51%
Free State 99,493 24% 21% 54%
Gauteng 1,678,536 3% 8% 88%
KwaZulu-Natal 451,645 21% 15% 64%
Limpopo 154,583 47% 18% 34%
Mpumalanga 179,282 32% 16% 51%

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South Africans have minimal choice of fibre provider — ISPA