South Africa’s broadband targets and spectacular misses

Government’s poor track record on broadband issues in South Africa continues

By - January 4, 2013
Department of Communications

The South African government had a poor showing in 2012 as far as broadband is concerned, spectacularly missing its targets, and deadlines coming and going with no mention of the tasks that had to be completed.

Among other metrics, National Treasury revealed in its medium-term budget policy statement that the performance of the Department of Communications (DoC) has been extremely poor.

The DoC only met 0.9% of its annual ICT jobs targets and 0% of its broadband penetration targets in the first six months of the 2012/2013 financial year.

National Treasury went on to highlight a number of other areas in which Minister of Communications, Dina Pule, and her department failed to meet their targets.

The status indicators measured by Treasury are summarised in the table below:

Department of Communications mid-year performance status
Performance indicator 2012/2013 Target Achieved from April-September
Percentage broadband penetration 7% 0
Households covered by digital terrestrial TV signal 80% 60%
Rand reduction in per minute cost of mobile phones (wholesale interconnection) R0.56 R0.56
Rand reduction in per minute cost for fixed line R0.15 R0.15
Community radio stations provided with broadcasting infrastructure 5 0
ICT position papers developed for international engagement 5 3
Young people participating in the national youth information society and development programme 500 650
E-cooperatives established 60 0
Provinces for which cultural heritage content is captured 3 4
ICT SMME hubs created in each province 2 0
Jobs created through ICT-related projects per year 17,332 (20%) 150

The poor showing on the performance status report from National Treasury was not the only area in which the DoC performed poorly either.

Throughout the year Pule promised that the long-awaited Ministerial policy direction on spectrum assignments would be issued.

Without this policy direction, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was unwilling to proceed with the assignment of certain radio frequency spectrum bands.

The bands in question, 2.6GHz and the so-called “digital dividend in 800MHz, are highly sought-after for the roll-out of high-speed broadband technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE).

At one stage Pule said that their policy direction would be finalised by May 2012.

Dina Pule and Stella Ndabeni

Dina Pule and Stella Ndabeni

A draft policy direction did not materialise by the end of the month, with Pule instead telling Parliament in May that they could only commit to finalising the policy direction by March 2013.

Pule then later said that they would probably be able to tell industry what would be happening in terms of spectrum assignment by November 2012.

This too didn’t happen.

Minister Pule was given an “E” by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in their year-end Cabinet report card released on 6 December 2012.

Map graphic showing where the Stellenbosch Free Wifi is available

Map graphic showing where the Stellenbosch Free Wifi is available (courtesy of Design Mine)

The DoC was not the only government institution to miss its deadlines this year, with ICASA not uttering a peep about the bitstream access ADSL players were promised to receive by 1 November 2012.

Finally, national government was not alone in fouling up broadband in South Africa.

Stellenbosch, where the DA is in power, made a big splash early in 2012 when it announced that it wanted to provide free Wi-Fi Internet access to everyone in the town.

This project appeared to have sunk into a bureaucratic quagmire as the year progressed, however, preventing the expansion of the network beyond a handful of hotspots that didn’t even cover the whole of central Stellenbosch.

DoC spectacularly behind broadband and IT jobs targets

LTE spectrum assignment imminent

Communications minister gets an E

DoC committed to talking about broadband and ICT

ADSL suffers because of missed deadline

The Cape’s big broadband plans

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