Inspired by Rudoph Van Den Burg’s riff on Jeremy Clarkson’s TopGear Cool Wall I thought a Cool Wall for the South African telecommunications and Internet community might be fun to do. For those who haven’t seen it, the TopGear Cool Wall ranks automobile coolness on a scale ranging from SubZero to Cool to UnCool to Seriously UnCool. Rudolph Van Den Berg has taken the idea and applied it to European and North American telcos. I think a little local application might be in order.  As with TopGear the rating is somewhat subjective and the list non-exhaustive and possibly downright erratic.


Justice Norman Davis is totally sub-zero for the decisive ruling he handed down in the Altech court case.  File this one under Speaking Truth to Bureaucracy.

Altech deserves equally chilly kudos for having the guts to take this to the courts.

Seacom are absolutely cryogenic for being more or less transparent in their approach, for having an Open Access policy, for giving a great deal to TENET, and for looking as if they are actually going to deliver when they said they would.


Neotel are cool for stepping in to offer a landing station to Seacom when it looked like the Department of Communications was going to send that deal south.

Skyrove are cool because WiFi is still the most underrated technology in the Internet marketplace.  South Africa needs more Skyrove.

The City of Knysna and Uninet are cool for delivering municipal WiFi against the odds.

The City of Cape Town and the City of eThekweni are cool for having forward-looking municipal fibre strategies.

Dabba are cool because they are driving a bottom-up demand-driven telecoms low-cost voice revolution.

Google are cool for even thinking about building an undersea cable to South Africa

WebAfrica are cool for having one of the easiest to use ADSL client sign-up and management websites I have ever encountered.


Vox Telecom are uncool for the way they tried to block the Altech case.  Just because they thought they were likely to get a piece of cake, they didn’t want to have to share nicely with others. Ditto for Internet Solutions and Smile Communications.

Nokia is uncool for removing WiFi from some of their phones

Seriously Uncool

The list here could be quite long.  I’ll pick just a couple.

The Minister of Communications is seriously uncool for failing to understand the telecommunications marketplace in a fairly profound way, and for the implications of that failure on everything.

Telkom is uncool for being one of the most litigious companies in South Africa.  They’ll happily tie anything up in the courts.  The old saying “a telco is a law firm with an antenna on top” was never more true.

As I say, the list is completely subjective.  Love to hear corrections, additions, rants, etc.

Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data