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R1.4bn aloocated to broadband rollout

Minister Siyabonga Cwele. Minister Siyabonga Cwele. [Image: www.techcentral.co.za]

Delivering his department's budget vote speech to Parliament, Minister Siyabonga Cwele stated the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) has been allocated a total budget of R1.4bn.

Cwele said the department would begin with phase one of broadband rollout in eight rural districts around the country, with the objective being to deploy scalable broadband infrastructure to connect all government institutions in these districts over the next three years.

"At the same time, we are finalising the business case and funding plan for phase two of broadband rollout for the rest of the country to be implemented from 2016 until 2020."

In the current financial year, the DTPS has been allocated R200m to begin connectivity in the eight districts, he added.

Telkom's designation as the lead agency for broadband rollout for the SA Connect initiative is based on the investment it has made in rolling out an extensive fibre network, which accounts for 86% of the existing 170 000km of national fibre network, Cwele noted.

"The department will be finalising the business case, which will be demonstrating the value for money and the appropriate legal prescripts in designating Telkom as a lead agency in broadband rollout.

"It is worth noting that Telkom, on its own, has committed most of its R5bn capital budget towards reaching more areas and to upgrade the technology as its contribution to the implementation of SA Connect. Broadband rollout is a huge but urgent project, which must not be delayed if we are to remain globally competitive."

Broadband Infraco

Broadband Infraco has allocated R319m over the next two years to extend its broadband infrastructure by 1 000km, Cwele stated.

He said the company plans to establish 41 new points of presence, including underserviced towns such as Ulundi and Stanger.

"However, due to the projected cash flow challenge, the company has scaled down 30 infrastructure upgrade projects to the value of R450m. In addition, we have advised Broadband Infraco to further scale down non-critical projects for it to continue as a going concern."

Cwele also announced that in the current financial year, the DTPS would work with the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) to review the levy for the Universal Service and Access Fund. "The aim is to align ourselves to the 1% charged by developing countries if we are to narrow the digital divide in the underserved areas."

Policy issues

Cwele revealed he received the final report of the National ICT Policy Review process towards the end of April.

"It is evident that many South Africans participated in the process through public hearings and written submissions. The report represents an overwhelming sense of South Africans working together to bring about the policy environment that will make our task of using ICTs for development a success," he stated.

Key policy areas included in the recommendations of the report include:

  • Policy on universal, affordable and equitable access to communication infrastructure by all South Africans.
  •  An open access policy that will reduce duplication, allow infrastructure sharing and direct competition away from infrastructure to services.
  • A rapid deployment policy to enable the deployment of infrastructure for connectivity at least cost.
  • Policy on the growth of the sector and local manufacturing in order for small businesses to thrive and create jobs through ICTs.
  • A national policy on spectrum to deal with the use and allocation of scarce spectrum.

"Government is studying the recommendations in the report with the aim of finalising a National Integrated ICT White Paper for submission to Cabinet for approval during this financial year," said Cwele.

Cyber security

Cwele noted the increased rollout of broadband and uptake and use of ICTs means the country needs to assure confidence in the security of these networks.

"We have made progress in the establishment of a cyber security hub in collaboration with the CSIR. I recently visited the hub and was privileged to experience what it has to offer. We will continue to work together with the public and the private sector to expand the capabilities of the hub as we prepare for its launch in August this year."

He also noted SA would continue to participate in multilateral and international fora, including the World Radio Conference, to be held in November this year.

"In addition, we will work with BRICS countries to establish an ICT working group and plan of action for collaboration on key ICT issues."

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