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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Band Isn’t Wide Enough…

Bandwidth.  The single word that can summarize today’s blog post.  And what a frustrating little word it is…

South Africa is an amazing country; but let’s face it, we’re kind of late to the “internet bandwidth” party.  In fact, in party-terms, we are so late that we’re only arriving when the people who had too much to drink are already sobering up.

You see, in the UK, USA, Europe, Russia, and pretty much every non-African country (and unfortunately even most African countries) internet bandwidth is available at reasonable speeds, with reasonable limits, and at reasonable prices.  Here in South Africa we are stuck with slow internet (compared with international standards), with pathetic limits, at ridiculous prices!  I once had a 4Mbps connection, the fastest available in SA at that time, and when my friend visited from the UK he complained about the slow internet…

Sure, this subject has been discussed previously on many other blog and forum posts.  I know all the reasons.  I know that things are changing.  But why is it taking so long?

Seacom is a step in the right direction, of course; and there are more such connections coming.  And it is starting to filter through.

Here’s my frustration, though.  You see, my humble home is located just outside of Pretoria.  I have Telkom ADSL lines, iBurst signal, Neotel coverage, and various other options, a mere 10km from my home.  But where I’m located (not even in some obscure valley somewhere) I have only two options – Vodacom 3G, and a local wireless connection that I won’t name, but that some friends and I have caught stealing their customers’ bandwidth.  So my only real option is Vodacom, and I’m really on the fringe of the 3G / HSDPA signal area with that.  So now I have two questions to ask:

  1. Why, if we’re so close to the coverage, don’t they just extend their coverage that little bit?
  2. Vodacom was one of the cheapest (if not THE cheapest) broadband providers in SA until a few months ago.  So what’s wrong with them now?  A friend of mine has uncapped ADSL, at 4Mbps, from MWEB, and it costs him R899.  Even MTN are offering an uncapped 3G connection now (though only on contract, and it’s slower when you go above 3GB, but it’s still awesome to know you can use as much as you want).  SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH VODACOM?!  I mean, the best I can get from them is a 20GB data bundle, and that costs at least R3899!  I mean, that’s more than the average South African salary!

So those are just some of my frustrations.  I used to be a big fan of Vodacom’s internet offerings.  It just makes sense.  But I don’t know what’s wrong with them these days.  Recently they announced that they are increasing the amount of bandwidth that we get for the same price – Well, thank you Vodacom, but 300MB?  I mean, really…

Though I’ve never been a fan of MWEB, that’s who I’ll use if I can ever get my hands on an ADSL line, unless something changes drastically.

So, comment time.  Can anyone answer any of my questions?  Is there someone out there with significant influence to get some of these problems sorted out?  (And have any of you seen my other blue sock?  Oh, wait, I got it.)

All right then, boys and girls, that’s it for today.  All of my international readers, enjoy your good internet connections!

Lourens, out.


  1. I feel really sorry for you guys down in SA and wish that the situation improves. You are missing out on a lot of things it even affects the way we communicate with the people back home. I however heard that in Australia things are also quite expensive and slowish. Would like to see a comparison between SA and Aus.

  2. Somehow, I just know that if I ever get a good taste of what uncapped, 10Mbps internet is like, it will be very, very hard to go back to 3G (even though 3G with good reception is great for most purposes).

    Ag! I share your pain Lourens, though lucky me has recently gotten an ADSL connection again. See we pay Telkom for the DSL line (a bit pricey and I'd say badly serviced - though surprisingly Telkom is forming up too!), but Axxess Africa is our internet supplier. And I've been pretty impressed with them so far. The ADSL is somewhat more responsive, a bit faster and a lot more stable than our Vodacom 3G. We have went for a 3 or 4GB cap connection that runs over the seacom cables.

    Vodacom data bundles are (were?) certainly quite a nice and affordable way to access the net, but this ADSL thing is working out faster for more now for us.

    I'm glad to agree: things really are changing, with alternative ISPs and uncapped (but shaped, and don't forget that!) connections becoming common. A new era seems to be dawning for us, and hopefully day will break soon.