SA pigeon 'faster than broadband'

Update needed for RFC 1149 (1 April 1990),
   A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers

Note this part, though.

""Several recommendations have, in the past, been made to the
customer but none of these have, to date, been accepted," Telkom's
Troy Hector told South Africa's Sapa news agency in an e-mail."

It would be nice to know what those recommendations were...

"Buy a business-grade service like a T1" instead of ADSL perhaps?

From tfa (emphasis mine): "in the same time [2 hours] the **ADSL** had

sent 4% of the [4GB memory stick] data."

4% of 4 gigs in 2 hours puts their ADSL _upload_speed_ in the ballpark of:
4,000,000,000 bytes * 0.04 * 8 bits per byte / 2 hours / 60 minutes
per hour / 60 seconds per minute ~= 180,000 bits per second

180kbps is more or less middle-of-the-road for ADSL.

Bill Herrin

180kbps is more or less middle-of-the-road for ADSL.

In terms of technology, it's about as close to bottom of the range as you can get. The south african incumbent, Telkom, have three different products, described here:

I love the product names: their 128k/384k product is called "FastDSL". Their top-of-the-range, gold plated product is a 512k/4M trailblazer service called "FastestDSL". The irony of it all...

There is hope for telecoms in ZA, though - there's been several major changes to the ZA telecoms scene over the last year. A court ruling in august last year effectively opened up the telecoms market so that any company could get a generic telecoms license (VANS - value-added network service). The court case was fought tooth and nail by the ministry of communications who seemed desperate to protect the telkom / neotel duopoly. This was possibly related to the fact that Telkom is 39.8% owned by the ZA government and is something of a money-spinner.

But in a major step forward for the country, the high court in Jo'burg disagreed that licenses should be restricted and refused leave to appeal after the ruling. There are now ~600 VANS license holders in south africa, up from 2 last year.

The second event was that the ZA minister of communications for the last 10 years, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, retired from her position as minister due to natural causes. As usual for controversial figures, there were different points of view expressed on her life's work. One - typically held by government and other official figures - praised her role in communications, saying that "with her incisive intellect she has made an invaluable contribution to the development of policy in various fields, including information and communication technology."

Another point of view from the industry put things slightly differently:

Last, but not least, the Seacom cable linking ZA to Marseille, Mumbai and a bunch of countries up the east coast of Africa - a cable which Matsepe-Casaburri did her best to prevent from landing in south africa - is nearing completion. This will take away Telkom's monopoly on international connectivity, which is the second major step after market liberalisation required to actually improve the industry's infrastructure.

So, good news all around. Let's hope that IP over carrier pigeon will soon become a thing of the past.


This says more about current ADSL technology not really being
"broadband" than it does about South Africa's telecommunications
infrastructure. Doing the arithmetic, my Southern California AT&T
384/1.5 ADSL connection would take approximately 23 hours to transmit 32
Gb (4 GB x 8) with the 384 Kbps upload speed. The referenced BBC article
says that the South African link took 2 hours to transmit 4% of the 32
Gb, but assuming wire speed my ADSL connection would transmit 8% of 32
Gb in that same 2 hour time span. The BBC article does not mention the
ADSL upload speed, but my feeling is that the slow transfer rate has
much more to do with ADSL than South Africa's government.

Excuse the delayed reply from a SA person :slight_smile:

I'm guessing the recommendations were not to use an asymmetrical service for
trying to upload large amounts of data.

Ironically the company in question has access to MetroFibre (,
but as with most Durban businesses and callcenter mentality in general -
they want carrier class upstream for home user money... There is a point to
be made that in SA "home user money" can get you a GE port at LoNAP. Still
many people don't understand the whole "you get what you pay for" thing, and
they expect blazingly fast internet on whatever they buy even if they have
100 users sharing it and all streaming Youtube concurrently.

They could of course also use a symmetrical wimax or wifi solution (we have
a couple of those now, I use one at my home office). And there are lots of
people doing bonded ADSL systems for people who want to scale downstream
capacity on the cheap.

Not really a monopoly anymore, but there is still a big lack of clue all
around (especially with Neotel who currently provision Seacom). It took for
example 2 weeks to convince my WiMAX ISP that ATPC was causing my uplink
encoding to downgrade to BPSK because the noise floor was too unstable, or
the tower was misconfiguration, or something - eventually I had to break
into the CPE and fix it myself...

So sadly Telkom ADSL still represents the best cost and reliability point
for many peoples use.

This particular story though was just a cheap publicity stunt that was
thwarted by the entire industry as specious.