This report provides information on Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland. Each country has its own chapter and covers the following subjects.
Fixed network Services
South Africa is the economic powerhouse and leading telecommunications market of the continent, but a lack of competition in several key areas has slowed developments down in recent years and allowed the country to be overtaken by some other African countries in terms of certain key indicators. This is expected to change with liberalisation measures taken in 2005 and the launch of the long-awaited second national operator (SNO) in 2006. The small kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland are expected to follow in the footsteps of their powerful neighbour, privatise their incumbent telecom monopolies and further liberalise their markets.
South Africa’s telecom sector boasts the continent’s most advanced networks in terms of technology deployed and services provided. The much delayed and controversial process of awarding a second national operator (SNO) licence finally came to fruition at the end of 2005, but it will take almost another year to become operational. Under Telkom’s monopoly rule, fixed-line teledensity has continuously fallen since 2000, while a mobile market penetration approaching 70% is increasingly forcing the three network operators to find innovative ways of distinguishing themselves from the competition. The Internet sector has been stagnant due to an expensive operating environment created by Telkom’s dominance in the fixed-line and bandwidth market. Mobile data traffic has seen a significant increase in 2005 following the introduction of Third Generation (3G) services. Sweeping liberalisation measures taken in 2005, legalising - among other things - the use of VoIP Internet telephony, are set to change the country’s telecoms landscape fundamentally.
With its relatively well developed and diverse infrastructure, South Africa is taking a regional lead role in the convergence of telecommunication and information technologies that has finally reached the African continent as well, promising the long-awaited reduction in telecommunication costs and better availability of information and services. Internet service providers are turning into phone companies, and vice versa. Both are moving into delivering audio and video content over their networks, while in turn the traditional electronic media carriers are discovering the potential of their infrastructure for telecommunications service delivery.
Telecommunications in the small Southern African kingdom of Lesotho has undergone gradual transformation from a state-owned monopoly to a majority-privatised national operator, with competition in the mobile sub-sector since 2002. Mobile penetration exceeded 12% in 2005 compared with a fixed-line teledensity and Internet penetration of just over 2%, even though Internet usage more than doubled in 2004. The use of wireless WLL technology has led to an accelerated increase of teledensity, which in turn will foster further growth in Internet penetration. After the end of Telecom Lesotho’s exclusivity period in February 2006, more competition may be introduced in several market segments.
The telecoms sector in the small kingdom of Swaziland features an old-style posts and telecom monopoly operator for fixed services but with private participation in mobile and Internet services. Nevertheless, fixed and mobile penetration is relatively high compared with other countries in the region. While Internet usage is growing reasonably fast, the level of penetration is still well below international standards, but about average in the region. The government is considering unbundling the national operator to create discrete telecom and regulatory entities and later privatise them.
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