Bandwidth revolution

The Seacom cable connects Africa with Asia and Europe.

The Seacom cable connects Africa with Asia and Europe.

 By the July 23, 2009 the Seacom optic fibre undersea cable was switched on and ready for South Africa.

The cable, which runs down the east coast of Africa and connects several east African countries and India, offers a higher quality of broadband at the fraction of the cost.

Bandwidth in Africa, and some other developing countries was expensive and slow, so not many people were able to access it.

Seacom CEO, Brian Herlihy said that this was a new era for communications in Africa because it was connecting Africa with the rest of the world in terms of bandwidth.

My biggest excitement was that this meant cheaper broadband. However, it was later announced that prices would not decrease as expected just yet.

ICT analyst Lindsey McDonald, said, “The changes will be gradual. We’ll most likely see better packages, higher speeds and more value in general as suppliers feel the need to compete.”

 “You need to remember wholesale broadband (which is what Seacom offers) is only a fraction of the operators’ running costs, so we won’t see massive price drops immediately,” she said.

The Seacom project was over $600million and took 24 months to complete.

The Seacom project was over $600million and took 24 months to complete.

That aside, what does these undersea cables mean for businesses and business models?

1.According to the CEO of Seacom, it opens up opportunities to network on a global scale. Global audiences mean more business for information based companies on a global scale.

2. The launch of the Seacom cable does, however, mean that there is now some competition in a market that has been monopolistic for years. Previously only companies such as Telkom provided internet services to South Africans.

South Africa has one of the highest Internet and calling tariffs in the world as customers in South Africa were paying approximately R2 for every MB (megabyte). Seacom promised it would assist in bringing wholesale data prices down by 90%.  

 3. Cheaper more accessible broadband means that more people will have access to the internet.

4. More people accessing the internet will mean that businesses will have access to a larger market as more people will be able to access bandwidth needed applications and services.

 5. High quality broadband will mean that new forms of advertising and marketing can be used. Image adverts, videos and podcasts can be used without worrying about bandwidth restrictions and exceeding quotas. This in turn also means that businesses can be more creative in their approaches.

6. Although marketing for every company is important, this is not the only thing that high quality cheaper broadband will allow in South Africa. South Africa’s information related businesses will benefit the most from this.

7. The cable is also offers the opportunity for more bandwidth heavy applications in South Africa, which means that businesses can compete on the same level as global markets in the international markets.

8. Training and education will also be transforming. Local university Durban University of Technology (DUT) was connected with the Seacom cable as the Tertiary Education Network (Tenet) downloaded their first test data over its network.

DUT vice-chancellor Roy du Pre says “The importance of this to our research is immeasurable. Our researchers will be able to keep in constant contact with their colleagues and peers overseas, be able to download the latest data, research journals and other information. Until now, they had to go to the library and find the book they were looking for and often it would be out of date.”

This means that education and training can encourage international teaching standards, ensure that students have access to internet and other important resources. Drawing a random link to business, this means that better education in economics and business sectors will ensure that these sectors will always have fully trained individuals for these positions.  This will greatly benefit businesses in the future.

Rhodes students are also positive about the Seacom cable and it effects on their lives and their futures.

 “From what I’ve heard it’s going to have positive effects. Like more bandwith and faster connections but it sucks that Rhodes is no longer on the list of people that will benefit without having to build their own link to the cable,” said Second year student Tarryn Liddell.

“I think SEACOM’s fibre optic cable is awesome and it’s gonna free us all from the stranglehold that high broadband prices have on our economy,” said Master’s student Ian Sieborger.

The bandwidth revolution definitely offers a sea of opportunities for businesses in South Africa and the rest of Africa.

TIP: Cash into the revolution.

Even though prices have not gone down, get your business geared towards a more information and internet related economy now. Don’t be left behind.