SA pigeon 'faster than broadband'

Holmes,David A dholmes at
Fri Sep 11 22:08:17 UTC 2009

This says more about current ADSL technology not really being
"broadband" than it does about South Africa's telecommunications
infrastructure. Doing the arithmetic, my Southern California AT&T
384/1.5 ADSL connection would take approximately 23 hours to transmit 32
Gb (4 GB x 8) with the 384 Kbps upload speed. The referenced BBC article
says that the South African link took 2 hours to transmit 4% of the 32
Gb, but assuming wire speed my ADSL connection would transmit 8%  of 32
Gb in that same 2 hour time span. The BBC article does not mention the
ADSL upload speed, but my feeling is that the slow transfer rate has
much more to do with ADSL than South Africa's government.      

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Hilliard [mailto:nick at] 
Sent: Friday, September 11, 2009 2:21 PM
To: William Herrin
Cc: nanog at
Subject: Re: SA pigeon 'faster than broadband'

On 11/09/2009 21:13, William Herrin wrote:
> 180kbps is more or less middle-of-the-road for ADSL.

In terms of technology, it's about as close to bottom of the range as 
you can get.  The south african incumbent, Telkom, have three different 
products, described here:

I love the product names:  their 128k/384k product is called "FastDSL". 
  Their top-of-the-range, gold plated product is a 512k/4M trailblazer 
service called "FastestDSL".  The irony of it all...

There is hope for telecoms in ZA, though - there's been several major 
changes to the ZA telecoms scene over the last year.  A court ruling in 
august last year effectively opened up the telecoms market so that any 
company could get a generic telecoms license (VANS - value-added network

service).  The court case was fought tooth and nail by the ministry of 
communications who seemed desperate to protect the telkom / neotel 
duopoly.  This was possibly related to the fact that Telkom is 39.8% 
owned by the ZA government and is something of a money-spinner.

But in a major step forward for the country, the high court in Jo'burg 
disagreed that licenses should be restricted and refused leave to appeal

after the ruling.  There are now ~600 VANS license holders in south 
africa, up from 2 last year.

The second event was that the ZA minister of communications for the last

10 years, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, retired from her position as minister 
due to natural causes.  As usual for controversial figures, there were 
different points of view expressed on her life's work.  One - typically 
held by government and other official figures - praised her role in 
communications, saying that "with her incisive intellect she has made an

invaluable contribution to the development of policy in various fields, 
including information and communication technology."

Another point of view from the industry put things slightly differently:


Last, but not least, the Seacom cable linking ZA to Marseille, Mumbai 
and a bunch of countries up the east coast of Africa - a cable which 
Matsepe-Casaburri did her best to prevent from landing in south africa -

is nearing completion.  This will take away Telkom's monopoly on 
international connectivity, which is the second major step after market 
liberalisation required to actually improve the industry's

So, good news all around.  Let's hope that IP over carrier pigeon will 
soon become a thing of the past.


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