New SA Broadband Policy “progressive”: WAPA

The Wireless Access Providers’ Association of South Africa (WAPA) have come out in support of the new National Broadband Policy, Strategy, and Plan, calling it “progressive”.

In a press statement issued on Monday, 9 December 2013, WAPA said that its members are “uniquely positioned to assist in the achievement” of South Africa Connect, the collective name for the new policy, strategy, and plan.

Among the stated aims of the policy is to have speeds of 5Mbps available to 50% of the population by 2016 and 90% by 2020.

“Achieving the targets announced last week will require solution delivery from the entire industry,” WAPA said. “In particular, having 5Mbps speeds available to 90% of the population will require infrastructure and services outside of the major metropolitan areas.”

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

According to WAPA, wireless ISPs (WISPs) can, in many cases, extend their coverage to new areas faster and with lower capital costs than “the alternative”

This is because it may not be commercially feasible to extend ADSL and fibre infrastructure to the last mile due to numerous technical challenges, high costs, and difficulties ensuring a positive return on investment for larger operators, WAPA said.

“Cabinet has put a stake in the ground by setting goals for both short- and long-term broadband penetration and speeds,” said WAPA Chairperson Mohammad Patel. “WAPA looks forward to helping government achieve these aims, particularly in rural areas where our members are already delivering the high-quality broadband services available in those communities.”

However, WAPA warned that it will be very difficult for private industry to assist the government in achieving these targets without consistency of leadership and clarity of vision at the Department of Communications.

“There is no doubt that the frequent changes of Ministers of Communications has not helped to create a stable policy environment in which actual implementation can take place,” said Dominic Cull from Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, regulatory advisor to WAPA.

“The game of ‘pass the policy parcel’ is now hopefully over, and we would be fortunate if the energetic and engaging Yunus Carrim were to be left as the man in possession when the music stops,” Cull said.

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New SA Broadband Policy “progressive”: WAPA