Be­lieve it

Finweek English Edition - - TECH TRENDS - SI­MON DIN­GLE si­

WHEN TELKOM LAUNCHED its con­sumer mo­bile of­fer­ing – 8.ta – last year it promised to be dis­rup­tive in the South African mar­ket. Some an­a­lysts were scep­ti­cal about the pub­lic util­ity’s prospects and we re­cently saw the bil­lions 8.ta has cost Telkom’s bot­tom line. But so far 8.ta has de­liv­ered on its prom­ise of dis­rup­tion and last month launched a broad­band pro­mo­tion that looked too good to be true: 10GB/ month for R199. When things look too good to be true, they usu­ally are. But in this case 8.ta is de­liv­er­ing the goods. For now.

One is­sue 8.ta is non-com­mit­tal about is the pe­riod of this spe­cial: it may carry on, it may not. So snap it up while it’s go­ing, be­cause they might can­cel it next month. Or next week. An­other – and more im­por­tant – is­sue is the spe­cial is only ac­ces­si­ble on 8.ta-owned net­work in­fra­struc­ture. The net­work cur­rently doesn’t cover all South Africa and re­lies on a roam­ing agree­ment with MTN for cov­er­age. So be­fore con­sid­er­ing the of­fer you must con­firm you’ll be us­ing the con­nec­tion in a cov­er­age area. Telkom has a spe­cific web­site for that –­er­age/ i5promo/ – with cov­er­age maps.

How­ever, if you are in a cov­er­age area, the con­nec­tion flies and is highly sta­ble. Tests run from my home north of Jo­han­nes­burg av­er­aged speeds of around 5Mbps for down­loads and 3Mbps up­stream. Its per­for­mances have also been good across ports – whether stream­ing video, ac­cess­ing FTP servers or us­ing Skype.

But my concern is whether or not 8.ta can han­dle con­tention ra­tios, where more peo­ple make their way on to the net­work. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no way to test that. Telkom says it’s con­fi­dent its net­work can han­dle high sub­scriber num­bers, but only time will tell for sure.

Set-up was sim­ple and the Huawei mo­dem in­cluded with the deal is fine. You can, of course, use just about any 3G mo­dem with this spe­cial, so don’t let any­body tell you need a higher speed mo­dem be­cause in re­al­ity you won’t ex­pe­ri­ence the fully claimed net­work speed.

If you’re look­ing for a mo­bile so­lu­tion while trav­el­ling then cov­er­age will be a prob­lem. But if you need a broad­band con­nec­tion for ei­ther home or of­fice, you cur­rently won’t find much bet­ter than 8.ta – and cer­tainly noth­ing cheaper.

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