South Africa: Dealing With Complexity in SA Internet Sector

Johannesburg — South African consumers must know the relevant provider to contact in the event of problems usually come with a maturing market in the country's high-speed broadband internet sector.

It has been hailed a model of consumer choice, with consumers able to choose from a variety of internet service providers (ISPs) providing access and other services over the open-access fibre networks being rolled out across the country.

"When it comes to the provision of FTTH (Fibre-to-the-Home) infrastructure and services, the consumer needs to know who to contact when things go awry to get the best out of lightning-fast, fibre-based broadband," said Graham Beneke, ISP Association (ISPA) chairperson.

The local fibre industry is compromised of one layer operated by network operators and another layer operated by ISPs.

This differentiation effectively supports current macroeconomic policy aimed at driving down Internet access costs through fewer capital-intensive networks and more competition-boosting ISPs.

Beneke said the downside of this two-layer FTTH model is that ISPs did not always have the power to fix problems consumers experience in receiving services because these may arise at the network level and be within the control of the network operator.

When things go wrong, end-users will typically only ever deal with their ISP. This relationship begins when consumers see fibre being trenched in their neighbourhood.

ISPA advised it was up to the consumer to do their research and select one of South Africa's many competing ISPs to order high-speed Internet delivered via fibre optic cable.

Some problems in the market could include the network operator changing its coverage area, fibre breaks and inferior fibre install.

ISP cannot fix these issues because they are entirely within the control of the network operator.

"While ISPs will always act in the best interests of their customers, patience and understanding are sometimes required while a service issue is escalated to the appropriate party," Beneke concluded.

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