There is no doubt that broadband has become an obvious reality and inextricable part of digital communications in the modern workplace, writes Paul Luff, country manager, SMC Networks South Africa. However, the potential of this technology to facilitate high speed connectivity is being hampered by issues like capping.
While it is true that the level of connectivity and communications speed via broadband in South Africa is not at the level it should be, especially in relation to international standards, it has improved substantially in terms of mobility and ease of deployment.
Put simply, we have the infrastructure and technology in place – but due to regulation and available bandwidth, we struggle to extract the maximum benefit.
The concern is that there seems no obvious intention to address the issue.
It is not always practical or fair to make direct comparisons with situations beyond South Africa’s borders, but this distinction and debate continues to be made by those in the industry.
So if one agrees with this as a point of departure in an argument, and we bring in speed availability and a costing perspective, then South Africa is way behind.
The fact is that this resource is being monopolized, the licensing criteria to allow this technology into the country is excessive and over-regulated and the reason is primarily to contain it to one service provider.
This then brings us to the question of the second service provider. It remains to be seen whether this entity will have the independence to be able to penetrate the market successfully and provide these types of services – or will it leverage off the current inadequate infrastructure.
Another key influential factor impacting on broadband is that of self-regulation by companies and businesses.
Essentially we are talking about the management of the Internet in the workplace because broadband is simply supposed to boost the speed of Internet access and lower the cost.
The reality is that broadband is no faster than it has been in the past, it causes the capping due to the way they split the lines and it is exorbitantly expensive. An ongoing trend among businesses is to regulate the type of e-mail communication and use of the Internet.
This is being done through actions such as limiting the size of e-mail correspondence and with reasonable success. The main reason is to alleviate issues caused by inadequate bandwidth, not really for security or other considerations.
As far as service providers are concerned, they are at the mercy of the country’s main telecommunications service provider. They are not in a position to promise much and very often, everything around the complete service is far better than you get anywhere else. However the chief criteria is speed and they have very little control over this.
Unfortunately this is the scenario that will define the market for the foreseeable future. Until decision makers realize that in much the same way as the utility of electricity is an issue, the Internet and related communications is a reality to business and fundamental to success, then they may consider dealing directly and effectively with the challenges being faced.