I noticed this week that Telkom South Africa has just completed a successful ‘high-speed’ network trial. The speeds in question? 20Mbps and 40Mbps. Hmm, I guess high-speed is relative (says the spoilt Brit).
My first assumption was that would be based on fibre-to-the-cabinet, but to my surprise the story actually refereed to DSL technology. This confused me as in the UK DSL technology maxes out at the ‘up to 24-Mbps’, with speeds faster than that only coming from FTTC.
However, a quick bit of research proved that indeed, 40Mbps was possible from DSL. (You learn something new every day). Telkom’s upgrades are possible thanks to VDSL technology, which is little used in the UK, where ADSL2+ has been the limit for consumer DSL.
My next assumption though was that to get those 40Mbps speeds you’d pretty much need to build your house around the cabinet, such is the nature of copper cables and pesky signal to noise ratios. However, again the story came to confound me with the information that, “Ninety percent of participants on the 20Mbps services consistently synced at 20Mbps and 74% of the 40Mbps participants consistently synced at 40Mbps.”
This high success rate is put down to upgrades that Telkom has made to the networks such as replacing DSLAMs with Multi Service Access Nodes (MSANs).
But if you’re going to be investing in upgrades would it not make sense to put those investments into newer technology such as FTTC rather than spending it on old technology.
The message here is that for every company, and in each geography, the rate of change and the pace of investment must be carefully thought out and a balance struck between meeting the needs of the customers and meeting the needs of the balance sheets. If moving to next-gen technology isn’t economically viable straight away, then waiting until it was could mean that consumers in those areas would be stuck with slow speeds for very much longer.
So investing in upgrading legacy architecture makes sense, when it brings significant improvement to customers, without overloading a company with investment debt.
It’s like running a football club – you don’t splash out a fortune on the best players, only to become unstuck when you don’t win everything, leaving you mired in debt and facing administration.
For South Africa, 40Mbps is a pretty good speed to be syncing at, and if Telkom can make the investments worthwhile, then surely future upgrades will surely be not too long down the line.
The Broadband MEA conference is taking place on the 19th-20th March 2013 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Click here to find out more about the event