Tornado warning for SA telecoms

2011-03-29 09:14

Johannesburg - A tornado effect is set to hit the South African mobile industry in 2013, when the demand for services will outstrip supply, according to internet guru Arthur Goldstuck.

At the sixth annual Broadband Summit on Monday, Goldstuck, the MD of technology research group World Wide Worx, said 2011 would see a connectivity revolution, changing not only the way people use technology but also how it affects their daily lives, while 2012 would usher in a period of reinvention.

"There is a great need and sense for reinvention," said Goldstuck. "We have already seen it with Vodacom and it's re-branding."

He said that 2013 would be heralded as the year of the tornado in the telecommunications industry, with massive growth in demand for services, "but you cannot meet that demand and your success becomes your worst enemy", according to Goldstuck.

He pointed to the anticipated growth in African undersea cable capacity in SA from 4 800 gigabytes per second (Gbps) to more than 18 000Gbps in 2011, "the greatest increase in technology development that this continent has ever seen".

According to World Wide Worx, the mobile market in SA consists of 9.7 million contract customers and 41.3 million pre-paid users.

However, the actual number of users in SA is closer to 38 million, the group said.

It said SA has six million mobile internet users, of which five million already have access to PCs.

The group noted a total internet user base at 6.8 million in 2010, from 5.3 million in 2009 and 2.4 million in 2000. "This will accelerate in the coming years because of the smartphone," Goldstuck said.

According to MTN Group [JSE:MTN], the number of smartphones is set to surpass normal phones in 2013.

"By 2015, when all the people have upgraded to the next generation, you will find more than 20 million smartphones in use in this country. (The) potential is massive," Goldstuck said.

He also highlighted a subsequent pick-up in data, taking away from SMS/MMS speak - as a result of the "insanely high charge of SMS. This is the end of SMS communication as we know it today. Per character, SMS is the single most expensive form of communication in the world," he said.

Research from World Wide Worx found that market penetration of  the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is set to grow to 19% in 2011, from 3% in 2010, with Twitter expected to extend past 23% from 6% in 2010.

"Social networking is one of the driving forces of internet access on the mobile phone; BBM has become the new social currency," Goldstuck said.

World Wide Worx also found that 24% of the current market said their next upgrade would be a BlackBerry, which represented 4% of the market in 2010.