The long-anticipated Seacom cable will go live this month – indeed, a live demonstration will be held in Johannesburg this week – and is widely expected to usher in an era of faster and cheaper Internet connectivity. But users are warned not to get their hopes up too soon.

While the general expectations are feasible in the long run, the reality for now is way understated. According to Arthur Goldstuck, MD at World Wide Worx, business will carry on as usual as telcos will continue to control the markets in their interest. And he expects that Neotel will initially operate the same as Telkom.
“The initial operational capacity of the new Seacom cable will only be double that of the current 40Gbps Telkom SAT3 cable; the pricing structure landscape will not show immediate disruptions and connectivity speed will initially be determined by the end-user product and not by the international bandwidth capacity," Goldstuck told a discussion at the CITI and Bandwidth Barn soapbox event on Tuesday.
The undersea cables will, however, initiate exponential bandwidth increase and a more powerful connectivity in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
“A 100% growth in users in the next five years can be expected and an approximate 10% internet penetration rate increase”, says Goldstuck. The Internet usage and activity boom of 2006-2008 will flatten this year, but easing of broadband limitations and international interest in 2010 will compensate.
“Seacom will allow for intensified user engagement for those already connected, but the Experience Curve shows that new users will take five years to be integrated, meaning that the have-nots are more than 10 years away from the internet integration”, Goldstuck says.
The main drivers of Internet connectivity growth are:
* The undersea cables – which lead the revolution in internet access and capacity. Users will experience an increased cap for the same price.
* New licenses. These will facilitate the rise of many new ISPs. Names like Screamer and ECN emerge from under the radar.
* SME embrace of broadband. SMEs are the main connectivity drivers in South Africaand have a massive impact on broadband usage. For every SME that connects, a further one to 20 people is added, for example office staff and employees.
* Cellphone connectivity – but not as much as the hype suggests. Although the mobile phone is expected to be the digital device of choice from 2013 onwards, ADSL still remains the most reliable connectivity with the best constant performance in South Africa.
Arthur Goldstuck has been appointed as one of three new directors of the Bandwidth Barn. He is joined by Prof Johannes Cronje, dean of IT & Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Brendan Hughes, director of Infology.