South Africa cutting cost of the world’s most expensive broadband

Internet access in South Africa is the most expensive in the world. This not only limits the reach for most people but cuts millions who probably need it most from any access at all. Now the city of Cape Town as launched a new programme to increase competition among providers and drive down prices. Tom Nevin reports.


The city of Cape Town is spending R1.3bn ($124m) on a seven-year project to open the information highway to less advantaged communities. Dubbed the Universal Broadband Network strategy, the fibre-optic network has reached the point where it is robust and extensive enough to be leveraged off by the private sector with an upsurge in new service providers.

The upgrade will also improve network speed and capacity to local, municipal and national government institutions; linking FET (further education and training) colleges and expanding high-speed access to business.

The city believes that the crippling price of broadband in South Africa, the world’s most expensive, according to leading researcher Ookla Net Index, can most effectively be forced down by the proliferation of service provider competition.

This is being achieved by the city releasing its surplus of broadband capacity to service providers. So far, eight have been signed and at least another 20 are in the queue seeking certification. The programme is part of the ‘Smart Cape’ initiative started 12 years ago as a bridge over the digital divide to connect people and businesses in poorer areas not serviced by the private sector.

“The aim of the project is to make Cape Town an inclusive and opportunity city,” says executive mayor, Patricia De Lille. The upgrade also gives Cape Town the lead in broadband access in South Africa by opening more information highway lanes to network traffic, easing congestion, access and cost.

The latest Ookla Net Index showed that South Africa has globally the highest average price per Mbps for broadband access among all the countries surveyed. The researcher is onsidered a global leader in broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic applications.

According to the latest figures, South Africa has the highest cost per Mbps of the 64 countries forming part of the report. South Africa’s price of $30.72 per Mbps is several times higher than the global average of $6.95 per Mbps.

MyBroadband website notes that this high cost for broadband access in South Africa does not bode well for the Department of Communications’ plan to give every South African access to a broadband connection at a cost of 2.5% or less of the average monthly income.

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