Ivy’s Big Broadband Plans

The Minister of Communications, Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, said yesterday that South Africa needs to consider innovative and bold ways of increasing the rate of broadband penetration.

Speaking in parliament, Matsepe-Casaburri focused heavily on affordable access to broadband and an increased penetration rate in the broadband arena.

In her speech Matsepe-Casaburri said that an investment in a broadband infrastructure is central to achieving the objectives of socio-economic development.

“Last year, we also said that we would address the question of increasing affordable access to, and thus, use of broadband. As clearly shown by international experience, where adequate infrastructure exists, access to it is more affordable,” said Matsepe-Casaburri.

“Experience has also shown us that where adequate infrastructure is in abundance, this has been as a result of direct and deliberate government intervention, particularly so in developing countries,” the minister continued.

The Information Superhighway, Wireless Broadband and International Communication Network Access forms the DoC’s three main focus areas in the roll out of a broadband infrastructure in South Africa.

There is a heavy focus on wireless broadband access, especially to serve the rural and remote areas.

“Wireless broadband networks are less costly to roll-out as they do not require the digging of long trenches. It is for this reason that we have decided to invest in it. We will be strengthening the policy framework that encourages more players to consider investing in wireless broadband,” said Matsepe-Casaburri.

Sentech will play a central role in the DoC’s plans.

Sentech will form the core of the planned wireless broadband infrastructure network that South Africa will use to advance its socio-economic development goals while its wireless broadband infrastructure network will be expanded beyond the current footprint.

It will also be enabled to carry voice to the end user in the provision of this service, thus giving full effect to its multimedia license. This in essence will make Sentech a direct competitor to Telkom, the SNO and the mobile operators.

Matsepe-Casaburri said that the ECA will ensure affordable access to the international broadband infrastructure. The Minister added that she will meet with ICASA on this issue the ensure:

— all arrangements regarding access to, or use of, international cables and/or facilities do not unfairly exclude others,
— access to such cables and/or facilities is provided on a cost basis and
— access is duly regulated as access to essential facilities as provided for in section 43 of the new Act.

A further announcement regarding the self-provisioning of international traffic was made with regard to the new Act.

“I hereby declare that as a matter of policy all holders of licences that will qualify to be converted into individual electronic licences will have the ability to self provide with respect to their international traffic within six months of the promulgation of the ECA,” Matsepe-Casaburri said.

A long awaited announcement on Local Loop Unbundling was made, and the Minister said that it is now on the cards. “I will be consulting shortly with ICASA on my intention to issue a policy directive to the Authority regarding the time-frame within which it will enable all licencees of electronic communications networks to interconnect with Telkom’s last mile network,” she said.

“I hereby appoint Dr Tshilidzi Marwala to chair the Local Loop Unbundling Committee (LLUC) whose task will be to oversee the development and the implementation of our local loop unbundling process and to make appropriate recommendations,” Matsepe-Casaburri announced.

The issues of Local Loop Unbundling and more affordable SAT3 access were hot topics at the recent ICASA ADSL Hearings, and the minister’s announcements is a welcome move towards making the market more competitive.

These announcements are however only the first step to create more affordable and improved broadband access in South Africa, and care should be taken that these announcements do not become another set of objectives in a long line of unfulfilled promises.

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Ivy’s Big Broadband Plans