The Internet in South Africa: 1991 to 2015

The Internet in South Africa was born on 12 November 1991 when the first IP packets were sent between the computing centre at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and the home of Randy Bush in Portland, United States.

This was one of the interesting facts shared by Luci Abrahams from the Link Centre and Adrian Schofield from the JCSE during a presentation at the Wits Internet Week 2015.

The JCSE and the Link Centre have been commissioned by the ZA Central Registry to compile and present a comprehensive history of the Internet in South Africa from the 1980s to now.

The project will involve filmed interviews with South Africa’s Internet inventors, innovators, Internet history-trackers, content providers, operators, policy-makers, and regulators.

It will also include a digital archive and online repository of the research, YouTube videos, public seminars and events, an Internet history blog, and a book and publications.

The Internet in South Africa

In their presentation, Abrahams and Schofield highlighted milestones in the development of the Internet in South Africa.

The timeline below provides an overview of the biggest events in the country’s Internet history over the last 30 years.

  • Pre-Internet: South African universities decide to connect their institutions, which leads to network development.
  • 1991: The first IP packets are sent between the computing centre at Rhodes University in Grahamstown and the home of Randy Bush in Portland, Oregon in the United States – through a link of 14.4kbps and a 386 PC at each end.
  • 1993: The Internet Company of South Africa (Ticsa) is formed, and the first commercial Internet service providers are given live access to the Internet.
  • 1995: Telkom launches ISDN at speeds of 64kbps and 128kbps.
  • 1996: The South African Internet Service Providers’ Association is formed.
  • 1999: Vodacom launches GPRS at a speed of 56kbps.
  • 2000: The Tertiary Education and Research Network (TENET) is formed.
  • 2002: Telkom launches 512kbps ADSL.
  • 2004: Many wireless broadband services are launched in South Africa: Vodacom 3G 384kbps, Sentech MyWireless 512kbps, iBurst 1Mbps.
  • 2005: The Electronic Communications Act is published.
  • 2007: Cyber-infrastructure for science is established with SANReN, CHPC, and VLDB.
  • 2008: Vodacom and MTN launch 3.6Mbps HSDPA, and Neotel enters the market with its 2.4Mbps CDMA service.
  • 2010: Vodacom launches 14.4Mbps HSPA, Telkom launches 10Mbps ADSL, Neotel offers uncapped WiMax 8Mbps, and Cell C offers HSPA+ 21Mbps.
  • 2011: New undersea cable systems mean there are no more international bandwidth bottlenecks.
  • 2012: Vodacom launches 100Mbps LTE.
  • 2013: SA Connect is published, aimed at providing universal broadband in South Africa.
  • 2014: Telkom launches 150Mbps LTE Advanced and 100Mbps fibre-to-the-home.
  • 2015: Many new fibre-to-the-home players emerge, offering speeds of up to 1Gbps. SANReN has over 300 points of presence at universities, research institutes, colleges, libraries, and schools.

Abrahams and Schofield concluded by saying that the Internet in 2016 and beyond will be about the connection – cheaper, faster broadband; affordable smart devices; IPv6; and the Internet of Things.

More on the Internet in South Africa

The History of Internet access in South Africa

South African broadband speeds: 2008 to 2014

How the internet started in South Africa

The History of the Internet in South Africa

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The Internet in South Africa: 1991 to 2015