R28,000 for 256kbps – South African Internet prices in 1995

Saicom CTO Greg de Chasteauneuf recently shared a 1995 rate card from Internet Solutions that provides an interesting reminder of what the early days of the Internet looked like.

Internet Solutions (then called The Internet Solution) was founded in 1993 by Ronnie Apteker, Philip Green, and Tom McWalter.

At the time, the typical Internet speed was 14.4 kilobits per second (kbps). By 1994, this doubled to 28.8 kilobits per second.

In 1994, the company installed its first fibre optic link from South Africa to the United States over the SAT 2 submarine cable.

It was also the year when David Filo and Jerry Yang launched Yahoo as a catalogue for managing websites.

In 1995, the “Internet Age” began and was coined as a term for the era in which information became available worldwide in seconds.

It was also the year when Internet Explorer was born from a licensing agreement between Microsoft and Spyglass.

De Chasteauneuf explained that South African companies in 1995 had very limited access to the Internet. Their options were:

  • Telkom Diginet – Reliable but expensive.
  • Dial-up – Cheap, but not always on and slow.
  • ISDN – Faster than dial-up, but not always on and expensive.
  • Satellite, which was very expensive and had high latency.

Most companies opted for a 64kbps Diginet connection. “These links ran via copper wire into the Telkom Exchanges, or in IS’s case, we had MUX’s in our data centres,” De Chasteauneuf said.

These TDD (Time Division Multiplexers) were an entire rack and had timing cards in them which allowed multiple 64kbps links to be shared on one 2Mbps link back to the Telkom network.

“Crazy to think the physical footprint needed to run 2Mbps of traffic. Diginet was symmetrical so you were able Rx and Tx simultaneously,” he said.

64kbps links, which offered 64kbps local bandwidth and 19.2kbps international, was by far the most popular for businesses.

This connection cost for R4,000 per month in 1995, which translates into R62.50 for kbps.

“The larger corporates could afford 256kbps, but very few could afford more than 2Mbps,” said De Chasteauneuf.

What is currently taken for granted – like affordable always-on Internet, coverage, and Wi-Fi – was simply not available in 1995.

“As I recall 56kbps was the best dial-up you could get. This was asymmetrical though and latency was high,” he said.

“Today a 100Mbps fibre connection, which is 17,857 times faster than a 56kbps link – has low latency, is always on, and is often symmetrical.”

Corporate Internet prices in 1995

The image below, provided by De Chasteauneuf, provides a look back at corporate internet prices in 1995.

Now read: The History of Internet access in South Africa

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R28,000 for 256kbps – South African Internet prices in 1995