Internet Evolution in South Africa

The history of the internet in South Africa is rather fascinating, starting  back in 1988.

The first use of the internet in South Africa can be traced back to 1988 at Rhodes University. Rhodes University is a public research college located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.

In 1988, three incredible individuals named Francois Guilarmod, Mike Lawrie, and Dave Wilson established an internet link using email. The purpose was to exchange an email between the Control Data Cyber computer at the university and what was called Fidonet gateway in Oregon, USA. Fidonet is a computer network that is used for communicating between bulletin board systems.

At the end of 1991, the first IP connection was made between Rhodes’ computing centre and the home of Randy Bush in Portland, Oregon. This means that South African universities were connected through UNINET to the Internet.

South Africa now had a full internet connection that operated over a leased line. Even as great as this was, most of this internet development occurred within academic institutions, and it was not until a bit later that it was pushed to the broader commercial world. Once the public, small business owners and corporate leaders saw what the internet was capable of, the race was on.

South Africa’s first commercial ISP (Internet Service Provider) was The Internet Working Company, which was established in November 1993. Nearly a dozen commercial companies had access to the internet within the first month and began widening internet availability throughout the nation.

Heading into the year 1997, 56kpbs dial-up connections became more present. From 2000 onwards, South Africans started to see the dawn of commercial broadband services. Telkom launched the country’s first commercial Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) product in 2002. The rise in internet usage was exponential right through 2002, and wireless broadband started flooding the scene in 2004.

From that first email to where we are today, the evolution of the internet is quite remarkable. Currently, South Africans enjoy broadband speeds that exceed 14.04 Mbps, which keeps up with the rest of the developed world.

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