Seacom's Suveer Ramdhani: why SA's internet is not as fast as it could be

That was the message of Suveer Ramdhani, Chief Development Officer at internet and undersea cable firm Seacom, for the 500 delegates at the inaugural Mybroadband Cloud and Hosting Conference at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on 9 June.

Ramdhani said that just under 5% of the company's 80 000km undersea cable's bandwidth is currently used, because the rest is not being made available to end users. Ramdhani maintained that the cable could be "lit up" at any point to provide additional capacity.

According to Ramdhani, problems in the four main areas - last mile or street connections, long haul, metro fibre and local peering networks - include costly fibre links, lack of spectrum and selective peering policies. "In addition, municipalities still view metro networks as revenue opportunities, rather than a chance to facilitate the industry."

There is also a lack of risk appetite because many network builders have key anchor tenants who don't want to competition.

While Africa had made great strides in establishing its own networks, the continent still lagged behind the rest of the world and while South Africa is ahead of other African countries in the connectivity stakes, legislation is slowing down development. "The Internet has evolved in Africa since 2009. We have the capacity to get large volumes of data moving at high-speed and low latency, connected to multiple services across different devices and locations. This is what's needed to harness the cloud, but what will we do with this capacity?"

He said content providers were not rushing into Africa. Pressure need to be placed on business networks to upgrade their systems to allow for this to happen. Ramdhani went on to bemoan the "major blockages" faced by operators in SA. "Legislation is a real issue. There is also a lack of risk appetite because many network builders have key anchor tenants who don't want to competition. As a result, there is no open-bid market and collusion is rife," said Ramdhani.

He cited Kenya and Tanzania as examples of African nations that had improved capacity rapidly and realised the economic benefits by allowing consumers and businesses to lease fibre from the national power and rail utilities. Despite these issues, Ramdhani regarded the outlook as positive and mentioned that Seacom is looking at constructing a new cable on the country's west coast.

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