Local Internet access provider (IAP), Utande, published a column titled “Techno Talk” in a local weekly last week. First, we’d like to commend them for this and we hope the column is going to be a regular one. It’s not every day that an internet provider comes out to say their view of connectivity issues, so it’s quite a welcome development.
The subject of last week’s column is the cost of broadband in the country, specific ally why it is expensive. Here’s a summary of those reasons given:
- The vast distances between populated areas mean that deploying infrastructure (fibre for example) between two points costs just a few customers significantly more as the cost is not shared between many customers, as would be the case in densely populated markets where thousands of consumers between two points also buy the service.
- There are taxes, licenses and levies that add to the cost of infrastructure locally. We think they mean the local IAP fees are heavier than other markets. Hello POTRAZ, we hope you’re reading this.
- The need by internet users to access content that is outside the country. The further the content you access, the more you pay for it, is the argument. Utande throws in an example here; 45% of the cost of bandwidth they get from SEACOM are fees to TDM, the Mozambican operator whose fibre connects the SEACOM fibre to Zimbabwe.
- Some ISPs “keep selling a finite supply of bandwidth again and again” and this reduces the quality of the connection which results in customers feeling they’re paying more than they are getting. Utande goes on to explain in some details how ISPs using this model do their ‘dirty’ tricks; “sometimes users only obtain one sixth of the bandwidth they pay for and only get to use their internet connection for the type of traffic their ISP chooses to permit at any given time”. Mean hey. Can’t say we disagree; we’ve been victim of this practice ourselves too many times to count. Utande, by the way, prides itself in not being part of this lot. The company told us back in July this year: We do not believe in contention!
- Call center support, which local ISPs do not outsource, also contributes to the high cost of bandwidth.
Just to be clear on contention, the practice is not an all-evil-and-no-good one that the words above may paint. Balanced well, it promotes affordability and more access to more people. The abuse of the model by the bulk of ISPs is what frustrates users so much.
Utande has been promising to launch consumer WiMax services in last few months. This may be a sign the company is ready to launch and we can’t wait for that to happen. Their choice of releasing this ‘prices disclaimer’ of sorts though may suggest that their consumer broadband pricing will not be common-people friendly.