2010 watershed year for ICT
The Fifa Soccer World Cup and broadband will converge next year, leading to growth in the ICT sector, say market commentators.
Many local companies are involved in providing ICT services for next year's big event.
Steven Ambrose, MD of World Wide Worx Strategy, says: “2010 will be a watershed year.” The technology needs of the cup have resulted in an advanced telecommunications backbone being built.
“There is no question that the main legacy will be a very robust and advanced backbone,” he notes. However, while advanced telecommunications infrastructure will be in place for the games, it will take a while for the rest of SA to benefit, Ambrose adds.
World Wide Worx Strategy expects about nine million South Africans to be connected to the Internet by 2013, which is about double the number now. In addition, the bulk of these people will be connected through broadband, compared to about 1.4 million now.
Alphonzo Samuels, Telkom's managing executive for wholesale services, says the operator's undersea capacity has been significantly upgraded, especially with the World Cup in mind.
“For example, by the end of 2009, the SAT-3 and Safe upgrades - to at least three times their current capacity - will be concluded,” says Samuels.
However, Ambrose expects the benefits of the increased infrastructure to take three to five years to filter through to the rest of the country.
Seacom's head of business development, Aidan Baigrie, says the cup “will showcase Africa's commercial and human capital like never before, and will build the necessary foundations and experience to help dissolve the barriers of entry into the African market”.
“This exposure to colourful and rich African content, combined with new relationships, should spark renewed foreign interest in local content and long-term ICT business development,” says Baigrie.
He adds that the company is seeing 2010 as the year of ICT “disruption” for SA. “Over the last year, Seacom has initiated a flood of bandwidth into various regions, including the country's economic hub, Johannesburg.”
Baigrie predicts 2010 will herald an age of increased bandwidth, at lower cost. “With international bandwidth now more affordable than ever, we are already seeing an influx of new service providers undercutting our traditional broadband incumbents.
“This, coupled with an array of wireline and wireless technologies making high-speed bandwidth more accessible, is good news for SA's end-users who have been longing for better pricing and speeds.”
Clicks2Customers commercial executive Tom van den Berckt says the World Cup has resulted in SA becoming a priority country for technology roll-outs.
The company, which specialises in pay-per-click marketing, says tech-savvy South Africans are surprisingly quick to adopt new technologies. “3G usage is widespread; Facebook and Twitter are ubiquitous; we're increasingly going mobile,” says Van den Berckt.
Google has also given SA priority attention when it comes to rolling out some of its services. “Google Maps is providing excellent coverage of every big city in SA, including information on business locations and local attractions,” he adds.
“The World Cup is probably to thank for all of this, but even when the cup is over, we'll be left with a consumer base that has been exposed to the power of the Internet and will change the economy from the ground up.”
As a result, Van den Berckt expects to see accelerated growth in the online economy next year, which will bolster the retail and tourism sectors. “Recently, broadband prices have started to come down and, with the arrival of more undersea cable in the next two years, more and more people will be able to afford Internet access.”
2010 showcases SA's tech acumen