South Africa Connect: the new broadband policy

Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim gazetted a new broadband policy for South Africa on Friday, 6 December 2013.

The policy and its associated strategy and plan have been collectively dubbed “South Africa Connect” and outline a number of activities to improve broadband in South Africa.

In particular, the overall vision of the policy is to give every South African access to a broadband connection at a cost of 2.5% or less of the average monthly income.

The new policy has also revised on how it defines the speed of broadband, opting to use targets that are reviewed annually rather than a fixed speed.

Icasa will supplement these targets, the policy states, by specifying quality of service standards, download and upload speeds, latency, waiting time for installation and fault clearance.

The initial target is to offer 90% of South Africans a minimum speed of 5 Megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020. However, 50% of the population should also have access to 100Mbps broadband by 2020 according to these targets.

Target Penetration measure Baseline (2013) By 2016 By 2020 By 2030
Broadband access in Mbps user experience % of population 33.7% Internet access* 50% at 5Mbps 90% at 5Mbps; 50% at 100Mbps 100% at 10Mbps; 80% at 100Mbps
Schools % of schools 25% connected 50% at 10Mbps 100% at 10Mbps; 80% at 100Mbps 100% at 1Gbps
Health facilities % of health services 13% connected 50% at 10Mbps 100% at 10Mbps; 80% at 100Mbps 100% at 1Gbps
Government facilities % of government offices 50% at 5Mbps 100% at 10Mbps 100% at 100Mbps
* Research ICT Africa, 2012 ICT Access and Use Survey

Among the areas of concern highlighted by the policy is duplication of civil work to roll out networking infrastructure and a need for speedy assignment of spectrum.

The policy also calls for the appointment of a broadband council and the creation of a wholesale open access network.

It goes on to acknowledge that the scale and scope of interventions to be undertaken in South Africa requires investment by both the public and private sectors.

“The high investments required to establish the next generation networks have generated different forms of public and private delivery across the globe,” the policy states.

According to the policy, emerging success stories involve a public-private interplay where the relative powers and resources of both sectors are used to achieve wide-based access to broadband.

“An environment conducive to private sector investment will be created through enabling policy and regulation and through the certainty and clarity this policy provides,” it said.

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South Africa Connect: the new broadband policy