The dawn of the uncapped internet era

All bidorbuyers – rejoice! You will never again have to experience the frustration of the internet connection running out on you while you are busy listing an item on bidorbuy, getting ready to place a bid, or researching the World Wide Web in preparation for your bidorbuy activities.

Up to a few days ago, South African cyber-population was condemned to live under a (very, very low) glass ceiling called capped internet access. Reach your (always so low!) limit – and you are presented with “the page you requested cannot be displayed” message. Then it was up to you to take up biting your nails as a substitute for the internet, or to grit your teeth and buy some more credits.

True, in most cases the very low capping affects international sites; the local ones come with a much more generous limit. That, however, is a poor consolation, for in cyberspace it is often impossible to draw boundaries between “national” and “international” neighbourhoods.  There are sites that are hosted outside South Africa. When you browse them, you use up your international internet credits. There are local sites that have an international component (usually the ads). When you browse them, you also use up your international internet credits. And what about all the bidorbuyers who want to check the bidorbuy fan page on Facebook (international district!) or the latest bit of the bidorbuy news on Twitter (also international)?

As from the second half of March 2010 (the day should be a red-letter day in the history of internet in South Africa), all that capping and partitioning nonsense began its long-awaited march to oblivion. The recognition must go to MWEB as the fist to take the plunge and unveil its uncapped offer on 16 March 2010. The very next day another outfit joined the uncapped party and several other announced plans to do the same.

At the moment, the best deal for 512 Kbps uncapped (yes, unlimited usage) ADSL broadband comes from Vox Telecom at R589 per month, which is R10 less that the pioneering MWEB is charging (R599 per month). Afrihost is “coming soon” with its comparable offering, which may or may not be competitive, depending on whether they manage to get a better deal from Telkom than R362 per month for the 512 Kbps DSL line rental (both MWEB and Vox seem to have secured the line at the discounted R300 or so per month).

And as for Telkom, who are not only the guys that mete out the DSL lines but also act as internet service providers, they were last heard as saying that their “uncapped offering aimed at consumers is in the pipeline”.

Do note that the prices given here are for uncapped 512 ADSL internet access including the line; the speed of 318 Kbps is cheaper, but too slow; 4Mbps is faster, but for many households probably too expensive. When you compare offers from different providers (there will certainly be more soon), be sure to compare apples with apples, that is, the uncapped data bundles and ADSL line.

Grateful as South African internet population has to be for finally being released from capping, it has to be said that our broadband is still too expensive and too slow. This should change with the construction of more undersea cables and the increase in demand. Then we’ll have not only uncapped, but also fast and even more affordable wired broadband.

Those who never had an occasion to watch their internet credits run out can wait for this promise to materialise – unless their kids manage to clamber onto the computer chair and start downloading music before that happens.