In the past, companies may only have had to ensure the intranet, Internet and e-mail were operational, but now they also have to cater for technologies such as virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud computing, the running of comprehensive business systems, desktop applications, unified messaging and increased requirements for mobility, says Mike Brown, MD of Broadlink.

Key to surviving this new world is an effective and comprehensive IT strategy, of which quality carrier-grade connectivity infrastructure solutions form the backbone. However, South Africa’s telco space challenges the delivery of these solutions to the South African business.

Last mile infrastructure remains a problem in many areas of the country. There is a huge amount of international capacity that has landed on our shores, but delivering this to a business’ front door can often be a significant challenge and as a result organisations are not always benefiting as they should from the increased capacity available.

Availability of fixed line infrastructure is another challenge. Up until more recently, the rollout of ADSL services was slow and copper theft still impacts this medium substantially. Fibre is, to a large degree limited to metro areas and have been met with a number of implementation challenges. Fibre connectivity solutions are great for business but the cost of delivering a fibre connection can still be prohibitively expensive for some organisations and can involve long lead times.

Mobile (3G and LTE) and fixed wireless (such as microwave) solutions are a viable alternative where fixed line infrastructure is not available, and in many cases are far quicker to deploy, however coverage is an issue in outer lying regions and these services are impacted by the amount of spectrum available to the carrier.

To overcome these challenges, IT decision makers need to consider a mixture of access mediums, to deliver ubiquitous connectivity where one medium alone is not feasible. In metropolitan areas where fibre does exist, a mixture of fibre and microwave might be a solution to avoid long delivery times, and also allows for flexibility should your network requirements change or your business moves premises. In areas where there is no fibre or ADSL infrastructure in the ground, wireless microwave links and even satellite solutions should still be considered to offer a viable alternative.

Satellite, as a business access solution, has become more advanced, is fairly cost effective and addresses the connectivity needs of remote regions of South Africa and into Africa where no other services are available.

As shown around the world, lack of upgrades and investments in telecommunications infrastructure hinders economic growth, and the government and private sector need to tackle it together. The solution is a combination of capital investment, an open and fair regulatory environment and the requirement for allowing a variety of mediums and technology to address telecommunications challenges in the country.