by Stuart Hardy – Business Unit Manager, EOH Carrier and Network Solutions Division
The fast-paced telecoms sector is one of the fastest growing industries in South Africa. Even so, we still lag behind the rest of the world in terms of Internet penetration, speed and cost. In recent years, with the arrival of new undersea fibre optic cables piping bandwidth onto local shores, the country has seen rapid growth in both mobile and fixed line broadband uptake and connectivity, slowly changing this situation.
Today, businesses have a wide range of broadband solutions to choose from. While fixed line telephony has increasingly been ignored in favour of mobile – consultancy PwC predicts that mobile Internet revenue will overtake fixed this year – fixed line broadband remains the most stable and offers the best performance.
It is not just about quantity and having the most far-reaching network. It is about delivering a quality product to customers for whom it is crucial to have access to an excellent, reliable, stable and fast network to successfully operate their own businesses. While mobile is a good alternative, it is not yet an ideal business solution.
The problem with mobile bandwidth: limited spectrum
One of the reasons for this is that mobile is a better fit for the consumer market than the business market. Every time there has been an evolution in cellular technology, corporates have looked at how they could use it. And while it has certainly found its place in terms of workforce mobility, it has failed to become the kind of network tool that organisations were hoping it would.
The lack of spectrum that is threatening a bandwidth shortage, and the high prices of mobile bandwidth, are also responsible for the continuing importance of fixed line connectivity to companies.
Last year, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was embroiled in a legal action that highlighted the fact that there is limited spectrum available for wireless and mobile providers, leading to calls to add licensed spectrum. Additional spectrum has not yet been allocated, however, hindering the growth of the wireless and mobile broadband market.
ICASA has once again been in the news for a legal battle – this time over its proposed mobile termination rate (MTR) cut. This also served to highlight an issue in the industry, reminding South Africa’s mobile network users how high our mobile costs are compared to those in other countries.
Increasing data requirements have pushed out the relevance of mobile in business, which requires increasing amounts of high-speed, stable bandwidth to operate effectively. This is providing new opportunities for providers who have deployed best-of-breed fixed line networks.
Fixed line broadband remains the answer for business
Fixed line telecommunication is over 125 years old and, up until the recent past, was defined as a telephone line that travelled through metal wire or optical fibre as part of a nationwide telephone network. These days, a lot more travels through these lines than the sound of your mother’s voice yelling at you for not calling more often. Because revenues have continued to decrease for traditional local and long-distance voice services due to the advent of wireless telephony and VoIP, service providers need to evaluate their approach – and customers need to evaluate the offerings of their service providers.
Providing broadband data and voice as well as managed networking services to enterprise customers, in addition to wholesale network capacity, are essential to remaining competitive for service providers, and having access to these is essential to the competitiveness of companies.
And, because broadband access is a mission-critical function of business, the importance of SLAs and backup connections can’t be overemphasised. Choosing the right (or wrong) technology can affect the bottom line. The wrong solution could result in inflated bills as a consequence of services your company doesn’t need, or even lost business if there is no failover. The right solution will be a foundation for the growth of your business.
Stuart Hardy has been in the ICT industry since 1997, has been in the Telecommunications industry since 1997, intimately involved in product development, operations and product marketing roles. He has held Executive level positions in some of the largest Operators in South Africa and has founded and driven two successful start-up companies in the Mobile data and Wireless networking spaces. Today, Stuart is a Divisional Director for EOH in their Telecommunications sector.