R2 a megabyte! That’s how much you pay when you go out of bundle (OOB) using 3G (on MTN and Vodacom). That’s R2048 a gig! I like buying 10 megabyte bundles thinking I’m getting a good deal – “only” R1024 a gig. On ADSL you can get R60 a gig and that’s shaped. For uncapped you’re looking at R1000 a month excluding line rental, and you still have a rolling threshold during office hours.

The excuse we always get is that bandwidth is limited in South Africa due to there only being one undersea cable supplying us bandwidth, namely SAFE/SAT3. Due to this they manage our usage by not just giving us bit caps, but shaping our connections too. This means that any traffic that’s not for browsing (HTTP/HTTPS) or email (POP3) receives a lower priority. If you play a multiplayer game with overseas servers/players, you will get pings of around 200ms-400ms higher than what you would have got had your line not been shaped.

All this should change come 17th June thanks to the 13 700 km SEACOM (South and East Africa submarine cable systems) undersea cable. SEACOM will connect South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania and Kenya to India,Egypt, Italy, France, and finally terminate in the United Kingdom. At the moment there aren’t any cables along the East coast of Africa; SEACOM will bring cheap bandwidth to East African countries that could previously only make use of satellites for their bandwidth needs. SEACOM is being designed with a nominal capacity of 1,280 Gb/s, comprised of two fibre pairs. That’s about ten times the amount provided by SAT3/SAFE.

The east coast of Africa won't be clear for much longer.

The east coast of Africa won't be clear for much longer.

SEACOM has already released pricing to the press. Going after volume to bring up profits is something that all South Africans should appreciate. Rumours are that Vodacom will decrease OOB rates by 50% to R1 a meg, and while 50% is great, I still feel that R1024 a gig is a bit much. Nevertheless, the other cell companies will likely announce similar price drops lest they lose subscribers. While bandwidth prices will come down, do not expect your monthly bill to come down by too much. Bandwidth is merely one of the costs that ISPs have. What you will get, though, is more value for your money. That 1 gig account that you pay R199p/m for might just turn into 5 or even 10 gigs.

What I’m worried about is the local infrastructure. Telkom’s aging and poorly maintained ADSL infrastructure is barely coping as it is. With Telkom offering 7.2Mb/s 3G while ADSL speeds are still at around 4Mb/s, I have little faith that they will upgrade the overloaded exchanges. Don’t even get me started on ADSL 2+. At this point, though, I’d actually prefer more usage per month than a faster line. How Telkom calls their packages “broadband” when you can’t even keep your line maxed out for 5% of the month is beyond me.

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