South Africa’s ISP iBurst launches “free broadband after midnight”


iBurst has joined the bandwidth fray, offering its customers free bandwidth after midnight, a move likely to target the gaming market. The company has been slow to respond to a mass of recent ADSL bandwidth rate cuts and new uncapped packages. However, it now says bandwidth used between midnight and 8am daily will not count to its customers' monthly allocations.

The product will be trialled from tomorrow and will be available to all iBurst customers using the wireless services. According to CEO Jannie van Zyl, the trial will run for three months to “test market viability before officially launching”. iBurst's cautious announcement is in contrast to its competitors, which are offering cheap uncapped bandwidth with abandon, and many have not included clauses on acceptable usage.

However, an industry watcher, who has asked to remain unnamed, says these companies may come up short, if quality of service is affected by a flood of broadband abusers. iBurst's caution is likely to test the waters of late-night users, specifically heavy users running torrents.

Overnight torrent downloads can cause significant problems on a wireless network like iBurst's, since the technology uses all the available broadband space on a given line. These kinds of downloads can cause lines to become highly contested.

However, it is likely iBurst is playing to its gaming clients, a target focus for some time. While little local research exists to show when South African gamers are likely to be online, most international research shows gamers play well into the night.

The company has long attempted to attract the gaming market and has dedicated products for online community gamers. iBurst also has dedicated servers for Left 4 Dead 2, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty 4 and Quake 3, among others – all popular titles for online gamers.

iBurst says there are other tasks users perform overnight, including online backups, large file transfers or simply late night surfing. The company says this is the first of a number of initiatives expected over the next three months, including a wired offering, which it has not provided details for yet.

“iBurst has consistently differentiated itself in the wireless space by bringing its pricing down to stay in line with wireline technologies. We want to set our price, and how we deliver the services, so that it is easier to compare iBurst wireless with the fixed-line services, although our true competitors in this space are the mobile carriers with 3G,” says Van Zyl. If the trial goes well, and iBurst manages to control its overnight customers, it will make the offering a permanent commercial product from July.