Connected in SA: a few cool connectivity options

Fact: we have expensive Internet connectivity compared to most of the developed world. You can throw a stone at a story about connectivity in SA without grazing a mention of the costs here compared to, say, the UK or the USA. Thankfully we do have developments like the Seacom cable, the upgrade to SAT-3 and a bunch of cables coming down the west coast of Africa which will boost the available bandwidth almost exponentially. We may even see Telkom drop its prices and increase caps and transfer rates … just maybe!

In the meantime we have a couple options that are better priced than most and offer pretty decent service. I used to be a loyal Axxess DSL customer but when it failed to take steps to reduce its pricing after G-Connect dropped its pricing to between R45/GB and R49/GB for ADSL access and Afrihost launched its limited duration and special R29/GB offer, I decided to switch.

G-Connect logo.pngI’ve been using G-Connect on and off for a few months now since Emerging Media sent me a SIM card and G-Connect gave me some credit to try the service out. Setting up the account on my laptop was easy with some terrific support from the G-Connect helpdesk. I focussed on the 3G access at first and it worked really well. It wasn’t until I moved away from Axxess that I started using the ADSL connectivity too. While I’ve enjoyed using G-Connect, the sign-on mechanism is a pain in the butt at times. Sometimes it just won’t connect me to the network but the support guys are terrific and I’ve had them call me a couple times with suggestions and to follow up with the support query. There are a couple pros and cons when it comes to the G-Connect service:

  • Pro’s
    • Pretty fast transfer speeds;
    • Unshaped bandwidth;
    • A single account for your ADSL, wifi and 3G connectivity;
    • No commitment and your balance carries over month to month; and
    • Excellent support (the support team are persistent).

  • Con’s
    • No concurrent connections;
    • Cumbersome sign-on mechanism

Afrihost logo.pngI heard a couple reports about terrible customer service at Afrihost but the limited duration and special offer was too cheap to ignore. I decided to sign up and try it out and so far I have been pretty happy with the service I have been getting. I initially signed up for a 20GB service at R580 (compared to R490 for 8GB at Axxess) and I am moving up to a 50GB service next month at a cost of R1 450 (compared to the R1 475 I paid Axxess for 25GB). I occasionally have connectivity issues that seem to resolve themselves after a few minutes. As with G-Connect there are a few pros and cons:

  • Pro’s
    • Pretty fast transfer speeds;
    • Up to 5 concurrent connections;
    • Minimal commitment, you can cancel at around a month, I think (this is pretty standard);
    • Excellent price and if you buy during the special you lock that price in

  • Con’s
    • Shaped bandwidth;
    • No bandwidth carry-over so use it or lose it;
    • Reportedly dodgy customer service (although I haven’t had any problems)

At the moment I use both G-Connect and Afrihost. Afrihost is my primary DSL provider but I have credit with G-Connect for when I can’t use Afrihost for some reason or I am out and about and MTN 3G is half GPRS (happens fairly often lately). I also maintain a 1GB data bundle on Axxess as a kind of “in case of emergency break glass” option but I don’t see myself going back there in a hurry. Granted the Afrihost pricing is not sustainable but the R49/GB price point seems to be where ADSL should be priced these days and Axxess’ refusal to revisit its pricing or make any effort to communicate with its customers about its pricing puts me off (Axxess doesn’t seem to be on the social media map and that says a lot to me about the company’s desire to engage with customers).

Plugg logo.pngOf course it is worth mentioning Internet Solutions itself for a number of reasons. For one thing it is the underlying provider that powers Afrihost (as well as Axxess). Another reason is that IS has its own consumer offering called Plugg. Plugg’s offering isn’t terribly appealing from a price perspective. At R79/GB (apparently the price has been or will be dropped to around R65/GB) it is just not an option despite it potentially being pretty zippy due to what I understand are low contention rates (excuse any terminology mangling – I am trying to remember what smarter people in the know have told me). Plugg’s pricing is partly due to its relationship with its customers which it can’t really undercut without causing some trouble (those providers should be cutting their prices but that is besides the point, it seems). Instead Plugg is going to look at ways to really improve the value it adds to connectivity by adding a couple other services and options down the line. The fact that Plugg is an IS product automatically makes it worth watching but until there is better pricing and/or a more compelling offering there are better choices.

While I am talking about IS products I also want to mention its Mobility product. This is a corporate product and analogous to the G-Connect service in that it encompasses wifi and 3G access outside the office. It is a lot more than just connctivity and includes a really comprehensive management system that grants network managers a fine grained level of control over who has what level of access to which network. It seems to be a pretty powerful option for corporates who want to give their people the ability to work remotely and at the same time control how they do that and even how they interface with the corporate network. I haven’t used much more than the 3G connectivity on my phone (like G-Connect you can provision your SIM to run on the IS network rather than your usual provider). I just couldn’t figure out how to get the 3G dongle working with my MacBook for some reason. This mention really doesn’t do the offering any justice. I just wanted to mention it here as a powerful corporate option that also comes with some competitive pricing.

Although pricing has hardly plummeted while bandwidth caps and transfer speeds have rocketed, we are seeing some very welcome relief when it comes to pricing and the flexibility to switch from provider to provider (well, assuming you weren’t nailed down by Telkom or some other larger provider). Even at R49/GB ADSL is becoming much more affordable and providers like G-Connect and Afrihost are putting some pressure on their competitors to do better. I would love to know the number of users other DSL providers lost when Afrihost announced its special offer. That must have been noticeable. I’m pretty happy with my current cho
ices although what I’d like to see is improved upload speeds. That is the next big thing, I think.

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

  1. […] zone to top up your account or seek assistance on the site itself. This is pretty dumb and while I criticised Axxess for its relatively high prices, I could always access my Axxess control panel to top up my account or post a support request. Not […]

  2. […] Emerging Media, about a special offer for the holidays a couple weeks ago. You may know that G-Connect is one of the broadband providers I use although mostly while I am on 3G. I use Afrihost as my main provider because its ADSL is cheap and […]

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