Internet access to double in next 5 years

Arthur Goldstuck, MD World Wide Worx, researcherJOHANNESBURG, 24 March 2009:- South Africa’s Internet population is expected to grow as much in the next five years as it has in the 15 years since the Internet became commercially available in South Africa.

This is among the startling conclusions contained in the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 report, released today by World Wide Worx. The report shows that the number of Internet users in South Africa grew by 12.5% to 4,6-million in 2008 – the first time since 2001 it has grown by more than 8%. The increased growth rate is expected to continue for the next five years, taking the Internet user population to the 9-million mark by 2014.

“Four major factors will drive this growth,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

“The first and most obvious development is the arrival of a new undersea telecommunications cable at the end of June. It will increase South Africa’s maximum international bandwidth fivefold, and the actual capacity that was available until the end of last year will increase 30-fold. It will gradually bring down the cost and increase the capacity available to consumers and business – but not overnight.”

The second factor is the granting of telecommunications licences to all Internet service providers who wish to upgrade existing licences, allowing them to build their own networks.

“While we won’t see even a tenth of the 600 existing ISPs setting up networks, enough of them will emerge from under the radar to give consumers and business a new world of choice,” says Goldstuck.

These networks will be able to take advantage of the new undersea cable, which will allow service providers to buy bandwidth capacity at wholesale prices and repackage and resell it as they wish. This means that the new generation of service providers will be able to introduce business models that were never possible before.

The third factor is the rapid rate at which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are migrating from slow dial-up connections to faster ADSL lines.

“The impact of these lines goes much further than merely the number of small businesses that connect,” says Goldstuck. “Our research shows that every SME using ADSL is connecting anywhere between one and 20 additional individuals to the Internet. This means that SMEs have taken over from large businesses as the biggest driver of Internet access in South Africa.”

The fourth factor is the growth of Internet access via cell phones. However, warns the report, this is not yet as big a factor as media hype suggests.

“The cell phone right now is a very crude device for accessing the Internet,” says Goldstuck. “We will need to see great improvements in both usability and people’s ability to use advanced features on their cell phones, and that will take another few years.”

The report also covers the prospects for as many as seven new undersea cables planned for the next three years, new trends in connecting schools and universities, the dramatic evolution of wireless broadband technology, and the extent to which other African countries have overtaken South Africa.

* For more information, email Arthur Goldstuck on Tel: +27 11 782 7003


How to choose ISP or consumer Internet access in South Africa

This is a portion of an interview for Huisgenoot magazine from 2007. I’m not even sure if it was ever published because the journalist was forced to redo the initial interview, which focussed on Skype to include a few questions about Internet access.


ADSL modem and network cable unpluggedThis is a portion of an interview for Huisgenoot magazine from 2007. I’m not even sure if it was ever published because the journalist was forced to redo the initial interview, which focussed on Skype to include a few questions about Internet access.

1. What are the different Internet access options available to South African consumers?

Dial-up: is the original mechanism used by home users to connect to the Internet access. Your computer connects to the Internet via telephone line. Your operating system like WindowsXP or Linux uses a modem to connect a computer and a telephone line to dial into an Internet service provider’s (ISP) node to establish a modem-to-modem link, which is then routed to the Internet. It is an analogue connection and by comparison the slowest Internet connection. Prices vary from R45 to R145 per month.

ISDN: is a circuit-switched telephone network system, designed to allow digital transmission of voice and data over ordinary telephone copper wires, resulting in better quality and higher data speeds than
are available with analogue. It was often used in videoconferencing because it provides simultaneous voice, video, and text transmissions. Pricing is a combination of monthly subscription + hours dialed into the Internet.

Broadband: is an “always-on” on Internet connection which can be both over fixed telephone lines (ADSL) or wireless connections. Research by Arthur Goldstuck predictes South Africa will have 1.37 million broadband users by end of 2008.

  • ADSL is the form of DSL of all broadband connections. Telkom launched commercial ADSL in 2002 and prices have come down several times since then. Bandwidth capacity and speed has increased now to where up to 4mbps is available. Most ISPs offer ADSL and prices range widely depending on how much bandwith you use. Beginners should start with 1Gig account and business users 3Gigs.
  • 3G: is the 3rd generation of cellphone standards and technology. 3G technologies enable cellphone network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved efficiency. Pricing varies based on many different packages. You can purchase a contract and get the modem free; you can buy the moden and use pre-paid airtime; or you can use a 3G/HSDPA phone to connect using Bluetooth. HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) is a new mobile data protocol and is sometimes referred to as a 3.5G (or “3½G”) technology. It’s available from Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Virgin Mobile.
  • iBurst: is based on IntelliCell technology from ArrayComm in the US. It uses radio frequencies with base stations and modems. Pricing vary from R49 to R1099 per month. They operate on a reseller model like ADSL so you can purchase it from most ISPs.
  • MyWireless: is a form of Internet connectivity that uses “wireless” technology by creating a radio-based connection to the Internet using network of specially erected towers (base stations). As such, MyWireless provides a secure Internet telecommunications platform at speeds of up to 512kbps. It’s similar to iBurst. Pricing varies from R499 to R1500 per month.

All internet connections require a modem unless you are using your cell phone as a modem. There are packages that includes free modems and some that don’t which can be more expensive per month.

Continue reading “How to choose ISP or consumer Internet access in South Africa”


Worm attacks Facebook, MySpace users running Microsoft Windows

Facebook Worm ScreenshotGareth Roberts, a new member of the team here at NETucation,  alerted me to a new computer worm that attacks Facebook and MySpace users. One very important piece of information left out of most of the news reports on News24 or MyADSL is that ONLY on users running Microsoft Windows are prone to this attract. Facebook users receives links to download the worm via Inbox messages from infected users while links are posted in MySpace commentaries when infected MySpace users log into their account. Current variant of the worm is faked as a codec installer named as codecsetup.exe. When the worm is ran, a dialog box will pop up with the message “Error installing Codec. Please contact support“.

These days I use an Apple Macbook Pro (thanks!) running the Mac OS X operating system that is substantially more secure than MS Windows. The most important thing to remember with your computer security is to avoid clicking on anything unfamiliar or that you do not understand. Delete suspicious emails on sight and ask your ISP to enable spam filtering before those emails even get to your computer or laptop. In 99% of the cases you won’t miss a thing…

Yes, this may sound like a paranoid approach to conducting your on. However, all computer viruses or worms have spread exactly because Internet users have been gullible. The explosion in use of social networking websites was always going to create new outlets for th creators of computer viruses or worms. Facebook has over 90 million active users and MySpace has over 240 million profiles and most of these people are brand new to the Internet. When something is a novelty you are bound to click on almost anything. What has impressed me the most about the social networking phenomenon is how quickly users are adapting and learning from group behaviour.

According to McAfee this is a low risk virus so you should not panic. However, its important to look at this screenshot and this other one, so you know what to avoid. If you are sick and tired of the vicious upgrade and update cycle on Microsoft Windows why not try Ubuntu Linux.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 4: Russell Southwood

Russell SouthwoodRussell Southwood publishes one of Africa’s leading newsletters on technology: The Balancing Act. He’s talk was going to be about tech, wealth and culture. He was inspired John Perry Barlow’s dream of wiring the Internet in Africa as written in this great piece written Wired. Russell referred to what he calls Door Openers which may allow Africa to skip much of the industrial revolution.

The first is what he calls “selling shortage and corruption.” About a decade ago it took so long to get a land line people resorted to bribing officials to get to the front of the queues. Cellphones have removed the need for landlines to a large extent. You can walk into most cellphones shops, buy a cellphone and get a SIM card within minutes.

Russell further described bandwidth as the fuel of the new economy. When you have high costs, you have low volume. And this keeps business out of Africa. When you compare this with low cost airlines, the model changes to low cost, high volume. (In South African we now have three low cost airlines!) Kenya has 32 million people with only 2 million that have bank accounts. And only have half a million can afford broadband. Now you may wonder if there is a demand. An example was given of 650,000 exam results published on the Web and how 220,000 students went online to check their results. There is a single cable that connects Africa to the Internet, the infamous SAT3, controlled exclusively by Telkom in South Africa. The African ISP association has been successful in campaign for the reduction in bandwidth, especially on SAT3. There are some very good precedents e.g. terrestrial radio stations. A decade ago there was only a handful and now there are over 1,500 across Africa.

Remember to subscribe to Russell’s newsletter at The Balancing Act.