SA's Internet industry flexes its muscle
A NEW Internet survey has found that the number of South Africans dialling in to the Internet is at least 50% higher than previously estimated. until now.
The survey, by Internet specialists Arthur Goldstuck and Cathy Stadler, is the first independent survey to enjoy the co-operation of all major Internet service providers in South Africa.
"Our most important finding is the unexpected strength of the Internet industry, which can only be reinforced by the ruling of the SA Telecommunications Regulatory Authority that Telkom cannot have exclusive rights to Internet connections in South Africa," says Goldstuck. "The decision means the industry can speed up its dramatic growth. We found that, on average, service providers are growing their customer base by 10% a month, pointing to a doubling in size over a year."
According to the survey, the total number of South Africans gaining access through dial-up modems via Internet service providers is 154 276. Previous estimates put this figure at 100 000.
The survey reveals that the market is not completely dominated by the "big two" service providers, UUNet Internet Africa and Internet Solution. Global Internet Access has edged up to join the giants with more than 15 000 users, while four others boast between 5 000 and 15 000 users.
But the fact that more than 20 service providers have established a strong customer base - each with more than a 1 000
The survey also shows that Telkom's SAIX has made a valuable contribution to the diversity of the Internet industry, adding 20 000 subscribers to the dial-up market.
The number of users gaining access to the Internet through corporate networks - linked to the Internet via digital leased lines - also appears to be higher than previously estimated. The survey shows that, excluding SAIX and one major service provider that refused to divulge leased line figures, more than 2 000 lines have been installed for companies. This would give a total of 200 000 corporate users. SAIX's client base could well double this figure.
The total figure is boosted by a minimum of 100 000 users who access the Internet through the universities network, Uninet.
This gives a minimum of 450 000 Internet users in South Africa. Since this excludes the leased line access provided by SAIX and a major service providers, the figure is likely to be more than 600 000. "Just as important, however, are our findings on the healthy state of the Internet services industry. The existence of so many medium to large independent operators attests to the positive impact of open competition in the Internet industry. The big do keep getting bigger, but there is clearly always room for new players." - Media Africa