The ICT Sector Performance Review Report for South Africa (2010) by Research ICT Africa (RIA) can be accessed here. Some of the key findings from the report are below.
While the Electronic Communications Act has fundamentally changed the market structure of the telecoms sector, legally opening up the market to competition, this has yet to materialize in practice. The South African telecoms market continues to reflect a market with a number of vertically integrated operators. This includes two very strong incumbent mobile operators and a weak third entrant, a dominant fixed operator and a new fixed-line entrant, each providing traditional services despite their possession of horizontal licenses. A state-owned broadband company consisting of the communications network of the power and transport communication networks is also struggling to enter the regulated and highly entrenched telecommunications market.Mobile operators are also currently in the process of building broadband infrastructure and are keenly following aggressive corporate/business services strategies. A draft broadband policy was introduced with the intention of facilitating growth in the broadband market. However, the policy fails to address a number of factors that have inhibited development of the sector, particularly the market structure and institutional arrangements.
In terms of access, mobile services continue to grow, with the operators reporting more than 100% SIM penetration, though the 2007-2008 RIA household survey suggests a penetration rate close to 65%, with at least 10% of respondents indicating they have multiple SIM cards. In terms of broadband access, South Africa continues to compare poorly against other lower middle income countries and, within Africa, against those in North Africa. While mobile broadband has bolstered broadband access, growth remains relatively poor and has not been high enough to push South Africa up international broadband rankings indices.Within sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa continues to dominate internet access. The gap between South Africa and the rest of the continent has grown smaller, with access figures increasing only gradually in South Africa. Most of the lead that South Africa still has is based on its higher GDP per capita and not due to any policy or regulatory foresight that has contributed to the development of the market.Some observations from the survey result those are noteworthy are as follows: (i) The perception of the survey respondents points out to the success of the regulatory environment in voice with the data i.e. broadband having very poor outcomes on almost all the dimensions other than market entry and tariff regulation (ii) The Indian telecom sector growth can be attributed to successful market entry in all the segments, which in turn provided a base for competitive tariff regulation (iii) Universal service is still a concern with wide disparities in rural and urban access. The digital divide in the broadband segment is reflected in the poor scores for USO (iv) the quality of service seems to be compromised with low scores both for mobile and broadband (v) Last, but not the least the spectrum allocation especially 2G has resulted in very poor scores for access to scarce resources for mobile. The TRE report for India can be accessed here
Current broadband figures for South Africa reflect extraordinarily high prices and relatively low penetration.
Infrastructure competition, particularly where there are cable networks, previously used only for television, and telco ADSL or fibre networks, appears to produce the fastest and most pervasive broadband rollout. But where there is a lack of infrastructure, never mind competitive infrastructure, such as in most parts of Africa, different policy and regulatory decisions need to be made. Where the cost of duplicating infrastructure is too high then regulatory intervention needs to focus on ways of enhancing services competition by ensuring fair access to a single network. The failure of historical strategies to roll out broadband services are reflected in the prices of broadband, the lowest of which are higher than the highest rates in the OECD countries, and in the fact that the lowest uncapped and unshaped bandwidth being offered in most countries exceeds the highest in South Africa.
The New Wave - One of the most exciting findings of the South African Network Society Survey is that the profile of Internet users has changed. Many Internet users are on very low incomes. In spite of the poor fixed-line infrastructure in South Africa, people are managing to connect using their mobile phones. But our research show they are also utilising increased opportunities to connect in schools and colleges, and in Internet Cafes. We are calling this the New Wave because this change in who uses the Internet and how they connect offers the prospect of changing what happens on it – changing its content and even its purpose.
South Africa: SA Needs an Open Internet, Says Association - The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) want a more open online landscape in South Africa as government formulates new ICT policy.