Broadband has changed IT communications in South Africa, and continues to have a profound affect on the way we transfer data on a daily basis. However, while the local market is on par with the world in terms of broadband deployment, service and support still lets the country down.
This is according to Paul Luff, country manager at SMC Networks SA, who points out that much has been said about the perceived lack of broadband and access to next generations networking and communications technology in the local market. "However this perception is not entirely accurate. In certain cases the local market has deployed technology that its foreign counterparts have yet to fully experience.
"South African users, particularly within the corporate sector, are not unfamiliar with the variety and depth of best-of-breed technologies available. The corporate network is being peppered with everything from 3G right through to HSDPA; ADSL and in-between. So where is the problem?" he asks.
"Basic logic suggests that if these technologies are available and there is buy-in from all parties, a steady demand from the market, increasing buying power, consistent requirement, then surely local businesses would be booming and there would be more profit being generated?
"Wel l… not so. The real issue, from a domestic point of view, is service delivery of these technologies to the general public by government and the so-called private sector."
It has become abundantly clear that providers of broadband communications simply do not care about service levels and do not have the expertise to readily assist the customer, says Luff.
"Service is oversubscribed, overcharged and blatantly monopolised to the point that the general user’s complaints and frustrations have not affect on the potential service delivery by all the suppliers concerned.
"This applies to the majority and is not an exception to the rule. One only has to attempt to transfer data on a daily basis using ADSL and cell technologies, to realise the extent to which this process is hampered by issues due to oversubscription and mismanaged data on the part of the supplier.
"If one then decides to confront the supplier with an issue, one is forced to recount the entire problem. This can only be put down to inadequate and badly planned problem solving schematics. Without fail, all these technologies make use of a common service provider and this is where the issue lies."
He says that, if the country is to successfully address this scenario, the government needs to understand that it has to relinquish involvement in this competitive environment to a multitude of competing vendors.
"Furthermore, this change in dynamics must be based on price and service delivery, which will dictate whether one is successful or not. In other words, the industry must begin to regulate itself.
"The fact is that there are a host of international companies that regularly comment, negatively, on the local market’s over-regulated environment, lack of competitiveness and total disregard for the requirements of a paying customer," says Luff. "The apathy that a customer is greeted with when requesting service from any of the providers can only be described as dismal, shameful and a disgrace to the industry as a whole.
"It does not matter how hard independents try to provide a service to their client base, at the end of the day, they all make use of a common infrastructure that is not conducive to service delivery to meet the needs of the general IT community."