FIBRE cable in the major metropolitan areas being rolled out by network operators, who are also implementing wireless networks to connect customers to this infrastructure, will provide a lot more broadband capacity.
But SA has a long way to go to catch up with developed countries.
“The question is, for what applications will people use all the additional bandwidth that is becoming available globally?”
In Europe many people, especially among the youth, use a lot of bandwidth to download movies, TV programmes and music and to share content with their friends.
He says research shows that in Sweden 35% of youths between 16 and 25 who watched the US cult series Prison Break downloaded it to a PC.
“But in Sweden an 8Mbps connection is considered to be slow.”
As broadband services speed up locally, users will be able to download software and other content more easily and send bigger e-mail attachments. Individuals will also be able to participate more easily in social networking and create and download personalised content, and will eventually follow similar behaviour patterns to their overseas counterparts, says James.
He says the cellular network operators have a customer base of millions of subscribers on the mobile broadband with phones in their hands, more of which are becoming internetcapable. They also have an evolutionary technology path that will provide increasingly faster broadband throughput.
It would therefore be worth their while to take internet-based applications that users are accessing from their PCs and adapt them to mobile devices, or encourage others to do this.
In the UK, mobile operator 3 recently introduced SeeMeTV, a service that allows individuals to upload videos they have captured with their phones that other people can then pay to view. It charges a small fee for anyone to download the videos and the person that created them gets a percentage in the form of airtime or other rewards.
“Other operators should be creative and encourage mobile application development.”
He says the mobile operators’ billing systems are already geared to charge small amounts for value-added services. They could also provide mobile internet application service providers with a billing mechanism with which to charge their customers.
But most mobile operators globally are just providing the basic connection and offering little in the way of added value services, he says.
They are also giving little encouragement to software developers to develop mobile applications.
In fact, in the local market the mobile operators tried to block access to applications like MixIT and Skype on their networks, says James.