Xtra still No.1 - but the little guys live on

Xtra is still the leading local ISP in terms of account numbers, followed by Clear Net and the Internet Group (Ihug), according to IDC's second annual ISP census. No surprises there. But what has surprised IDC researcher Patrick Pilcher is the way small regional players in the ISP trade have kept, and even gained, business. IDC had predicted that these companies would struggle to survive this year, but Pilcher says many seem to have found a niche in undercutting the 0800 access charges of the large nationwide providers.

Xtra is still the leading local ISP in terms of account numbers, followed by Clear Net and the Internet Group (Ihug), according to IDC’s second annual ISP census.

No surprises there. But what has surprised IDC researcher Patrick Pilcher is the way small regional players in the ISP trade have kept, and even gained, business. IDC had predicted that these companies would struggle to survive this year, but Pilcher says many seem to have found a niche in undercutting the 0800 access charges of the large nationwide providers.

IDC sent survey forms to about 50 ISPs, and counted a total 214,200 access accounts —150,415 domestic, 54,800 commercial and just over 10,000 educational. The influence of two big telco providers has shown up in time-based charging becoming the most prevalent model, with only a quarter of providers offering a flat-rate plan.

Ability to provide 56Kbit/s modem access does not appear to have been the market differentiator IDC suggested it would a year ago.

“It’s still early days yet,” says Pilcher. “In my earlier predictions I had assumed the the ITU ratification process for 56K would have been a lot smoother. I think a lot of ISPs are still fence-sitting at the moment, until that happens.

“We’re starting to see quite a lot of innovation now,” he says. “You’ve got the satellite option being offered by Ihug, the telephony option being offered by Voyager. It’s differentiators like that that will become increasingly important as ISPs compete not to look like each other.”

Pilcher also singles out Netlink as a successful innovator in its niche, which includes corporate clients and government departments.

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