Unplugging ADSL could mean cheaper fiber in South Africa

The rollback of ADSL in South Africa could benefit consumers by creating opportunities for lower fiber prices, Laurie Fialkov, CTO of Cybersmart, told MyBroadband.

Telkom has long planned to shut down its digital subscriber line (DSL) network and migrate all copper-based services to fiber.

The telecommunications giant promised to maintain its DSL services in areas where consumers did not have access to fiber.

Fialkov said that while Telkom wouldn’t disrupt ISP services when it disconnects ADSL, it could allow Openserve to cut costs and be more aggressive with its fiber pricing.

Openserve is the wholesale and networking division of Telkom.

“What’s good for the consumer isn’t necessarily good for our FNO division,” Fialkov joked.

Fialkov noted that Openserve’s ability to cut costs would depend on its ability to cut staff after the DSL shutdown.

This, in turn, depends on Telkom’s appetite to deal with the inevitable union backlash.

“Either Telkom will maximize its profit – which, from our point of view, we hope it will do – or it will reduce its prices – which it has never done voluntarily without industry pressure.”

Laurie Fialkov, CTO of Cybersmart

Vox product manager for ADSL, Navisha Naidoo, said disconnecting ADSL would have advantages and disadvantages for service providers.

On the one hand, customers who believe that ISPs are not honoring their contractual agreements to provide ADSL services might avoid dealing with an ISP entirely, resulting in losses.

On the other hand, the shutdown of ADSL will ensure that South African ISPs follow technological innovation and drive market growth.

“ISPs should view the rollback of ADSL as an opportunity to provide customers with an alternate form of Internet access that is future-proof, stable, and will meet their needs,” Naidoo said.

Despite Telkom’s efforts to encourage ADSL users to switch to its LTE services, some customers have been reluctant to migrate.

“Customers are hesitant to subscribe to a capped LTE plan because they need uncapped data plans.”

“Additionally, some customers are also hesitant to upgrade to an uncapped LTE package, as these typically include shaping, throttling, and fair usage policies,” she said.

Navisha Naidoo, Vox Product Manager for ADSL
Navisha Naidoo, Vox Product Manager for ADSL

Fialkov from Cybersmart explained that very few people still subscribe to ADSL and that Cybersmart only offers the service as a last resort.

While some ISPs are still recruiting new ADSL subscribers, this is not the case for all providers still offering the service.

“We’re not seeing new customers signing up for ADSL,” said Ramp Group marketing manager Nick Barr.

The reasons for The decline of ADSL are varied.

Customers are mainly canceling their ADSL service due to the availability of fiber in their area.

However, Naidoo noted that there are still consumers who continue to use ADSL connections despite having fiber access.

These people only migrated to fiber once their ADSL services were interrupted.

Deteriorating copper connections that lead to extended downtime and failure to replace or repair damaged or stolen cables have also caused customers to cancel their ADSL services, Naidoo added.

Nick Barr, Ramp Group Marketing Manager
Nick Barr, Ramp Group Marketing Manager

Barr said that in their experience, consumers naturally migrated to FTTH services once their homes got fiber connections.

“This [migration] is further supported by the competitive price of most fiber packages and the faster speeds on uploads and downloads, contributing to fiber providing a better experience than ADSL,” he said.

A typical entry-level fiber plan has a download speed of 25 Mbps – a huge improvement over ADSL’s 4-10 Mbps.

“Many customers want to sign up for a 20Mbps or 40Mbps [VDSL] connection, but there are limitations due to the capacity of Telkom exchanges,” Vox’s Naidoo said.

Given the disadvantages of ADSL, it’s no surprise that ISPs like RSAWeb prefer to connect their customers to fiber.

“Much lower latencies, more reliable networks and faster throughput all contribute to a better overall customer experience, making fiber the preferred choice,” said RSAWeb’s Barr.


Read now: Fiber versus ADSL – price comparison

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