Failed South African broadband promises

Last year the South African communications landscape suffered failed promise after failed promise from both the Department of Communications (DOC) and the Department of Telecommunications (DTPS).

Now five months into the new year, it appears that 2016 could be following a similar path. Despite this, the industry continues to move ahead with fibre and broadband projects rolling out country wide -faster than ever before.

Last year saw an exodus of senior leadership in the DTPS, crowned by the suspension of the DG, Rosey Sekese on 9 August 2015. In his budget speech delivered in Parliament on 10 May 2016, DTPS Minister, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele said that he had made progress in resolving the leadership challenges in the department which had impacted negatively on timely delivery.

He said that the Public Service Commission report and recommendations are being implemented. However he did not give details. At this point the DG is still on suspension.

Project Rapid Deployment was announced by DTPS in July 2015, and is aimed at simplifying the deployment of broadband infrastructure. A report from an independent consultant was published in August 2015.

The aim of the project was to simplify the wayleave process and remove unnecessary obstacles engineered by some municipalities, either for political or financial reasons.

In November 2015 the project was canned and according to reports the minister had decided that it would be included in the white paper on ICT which was to be published before the end of the financial year on 31 March 2016.

In his budget address he referred to the Integrated ICT white paper and said that the policy is in the final stages of consultation and is planned to be finalised in the next few months.

The Rapid Deployment Project is of cardinal importance to the companies involved in the laying of fibre and erecting towers as obtaining wayleaves is cumbersome, lengthy, and in some areas, downright impossible because of red tape.

While the white paper may contain proposals for consideration and public comment before a policy can be implemented, it would have been much faster had the minister implemented the recommendations of the “Rapid Deployment” report in November 2015.

The position on spectrum allocation for mobile broadband also remains unclear. The white paper is expected to include a new spectrum policy which will support open access networks with the aim of opening the use of high demand broadband spectrum for use by all licensees, while adequately compensating those who invest in infrastructure.

The problem is we have heard all this before from previous ministers. When Dr. Cwele was appointed almost a year ago he said the same thing. One cannot help but ask the question: why does cabinet keeps stalling the release of the policy?

In his budget address Dr. Cwele said that the July 2015 Cabinet Lekgotla received an inspiring report on the municipal free WiFi programme. Cabinet directed the minister to expedite the programme and set aside R40-million to assist those metros that would demonstrate capacity and plans to spend before the end of March 2016.

On 16 April 2016 Dr. Cwele launched the rollout of free public WiFi connectivity for the benefit of citizens of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.

In his address Dr. Cwele said: “Today marks a day where ordinary citizens of the metro will have access to a fast and reliable internet connection on their mobile devices. This launch of our free public WiFi affirms our commitment as government to the National Development Plan’s vision of a robust information society and knowledge economy that is both inclusive and prosperous.”

There is perhaps some light at the end of the tunnel if government can keep to its promises!

Source: EE Publishers

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Failed South African broadband promises