Challenge is for new users to grasp the complex technologi es

Market deregulation, falling prices of broadband services and a growing appreciation of the business and personal benefits of broadband are all driving massive adoption of broadband services among South African small businesses and consumers.

Market deregulation, falling prices of broadband services and a growing appreciation of the business and personal benefits of broadband are all driving massive adoption of broadband services among South African small businesses and consumers.

That's according to Mark Taylor, managing director of Nashua Mobile.

He says continuous price cuts from South Africa's major telecom operators, coupled with increased network coverage, have made always-on Internet access services accessible to more South African consumers.

"Entry-level broadband prices compare very favourably to those of dial-up when all the costs are added together. More importantly, dial-up simply doesn't allow users to enjoy all the benefits of the Internet," says Taylor.

Broadband allows users to send and receive large e-mail files quickly and conveniently, make use of applications like streaming audio and video, as well as legal downloads of music and other entertainment.

Says Taylor: "New broadband users suddenly find a whole new world of entertainment and productivity options at their fingertips.

"For example, many older people come into our stores to investigate broadband so that they can make cost effective voice-over-IP calls using applications like Skype to call children living overseas."

Wireless technologies such as HSDPA are empowering operators and service providers to roll out broadband Internet services in areas where there isn't a large market to justify the costs of laying down copper or fibre cables.

Consumers today can choose from a wide range of Internet access offerings including fixed-line ADSL, wireless broadband from iBurst and Sentech.

"The biggest challenge that a new broadband Internet user faces is to understand the complex range of technologies and packages on the market. The first step is to find out which technologies are available in your area," says Taylor.

In large cities, people will generally have more choice, but some suburbs in even the major cities don't yet have ADSL-enabled exchanges or wireless broadband coverage.

"Once you know what technologies are available in your area, ask yourself what you want to use broadband for, and, of course, what your budget is," advises Taylor.

Most of the services are adequate for basic web browsing and email, but some broadband technologies are better suited to mobility and online gaming among others.

People who want toeasily connect while travelling might opt for a cellular or wireless connection. ADSL might be a better option to play online games or download big files.

"We're seeing a proliferation of choice for telecom customers. Options such as HSDPA didn't exist two years ago, and new technologies such as WiMax will also soon be reaching the market.

"The arrival of Neotel, will also help to drive the growth of the broadband market. There has never been a better time to get on board with broadband than now," concludes Taylor.

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