Tag Archive | broadband

Broadband allocation on its way

Minister wants BEE ownership in broadband…..

sent to clients 20 March….As if nobody knew already, the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services,cwele Dr Siyabonga Cwele, told Parliament that broadband allocation is perhaps the biggest regulatory bottleneck in the South African deployment of wireless technologies.     He said, at the same time, he wants to see Black owned companies have their fair share of allocation.

However, both he or his department (DTPS) and the regulatory body ICASA seem to be at odds on the system needed to allocate the spectrum, particularly in the area of setting aside sufficient spectrum to support Black broadband development and ownership specifically.    The fight to deliver urgently more high-speed bandwidth to South Africans generally is being slowed down it seems by this difference in opinion expressed.

global broad bandPresumably, the delay is all about whose satellites we use – Chinese, Russians or the US accompanied by an intelligence risk – or do we go via the masts owned by the private sector. Minister Cwele probably suspects any such deal with the private sector will not serve black interests in the proper manner. Digging trenches and laying down optic line cannot be any kind of answer.  In telecommunications all is political, rather like the nuclear issue and the similar problems faced by department of energy – the political structure overlays the practical answer.

Dr Cwele has now said the final policy paper is on its way to Cabinet.

One on one

In an extraordinary meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, both parties explained their views with the views of MPs to be added to what has become a national debate dominated to an extent by Minister Cwele’s views.

The background to the impasse is that the Electronic Communications Act empowers the Minister to issue policy directives but ICASA does not necessarily have to accept such. To distill the views of each into a few words is difficult but clearly the driving principle behind Dr. Cwele’s approach is an allocation which favours black transformation in control of spectrum whereas ICASA prefers an allocation more on an “auction” basis, whereby bidders not only name their price but then add their additional contributions to Black upliftment and general social development.

cell phone mast graphicVodacom, MTN, Telkom, Cell C and Neotel have in the past sunk enormous sums into the development of communications structures but the current delays in allocation are, according to reports, hurting the industry but their BEE structures are shallow, say insiders.

Dedicated view

Industry sources said before the meeting “Minister Cwele is seized with the need to transform the sector to ensure meaningful Black participation but spectrum allocation cannot be granted in the same way as the granting of concessionary mining licences, for example, if Black empowerment is the goal.”

The principles of the allocation process as stated by DTPS are indeed noble, as quoted in the relevant draft Policy Paper before Parliament, which state that the aims of the allocation policy are to:

• Promote the effective and efficient management of spectrum to ensure
  agility, flexibility and adaptability in spectrum administration
• Reduce bureaucracy and streamline processes for spectrum assignment
• Support the attainment of the national broadband targets set out in the
  South Africa Connect programme at speeds and in the time frame outlined
• Provide clarity on the treatment of spectrum in instances where demand exceeds supply
• Set aside spectrum for use on an open access basis with joint private sector investment
• Support the provision of, emergency services, safety and security and sector-specific operations

Milder

In the parliamentary debate, Sipho Mjwara, Acting DG, DTPS, was more conciliatory and said the spectrum was a public resource belonging to all people and DTPS had to apply itself on how to deal with this for the benefit of all. Currently the spectrum was operating on a first come, first serve basis but this principle certainly did not benefit all. He said there were “barriers to entry for small companies and artificial monopolies helped little.”

This was followed by comment from the Deputy Minister, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, who said it was “more logical” not to shrink away from exercising the mandate of DTPS to follow the NDP on broadband roll out. “The pillars that need to be in place must include those that had previously been excluded”.

Money must talk

Pakamile Pongwana, CEO of ICASA, responded that from an international perspective it was no longer the policy,icasa ceo as had been the case in the past, of getting maximum fees into the fiscus but the needs of complete coverage of the country. It was a combination of coverage and fees, Pongwana said.

Germany had raised money from the spectrum divide, he said, but they had included a proviso that bandwidth would only be released when rural areas had been covered. He added that other countries were already looking at 5G networks while South Africa was still looking at LTE use. “We have to stop playing catch-up”, he said.

War of words

From the debate between all groups, DTPS, ICASA and parliamentarians, it became obvious that there is an ideological battle going on. The industry sees the independence of ICASA as regulator at stake, industry sources say. The Minister said he had looked at the idea of the allocation of “set asides” for high demand spectrum but added “the Department wants the whole pie to be available for all South Africans. We are in a situation where a duopoly owns 80% of the spectrum.”

However Pongwana concluded, “The allocation of spectrum was the country’s policy choice and the assignment would be by the Regulator and be in line with procedures. While there was long term licensee allocation there was short term spectrum allocation and the Department wanted to give certainty to licensees.”

Money, money, money

moneyOn the question of infrastructure spend, DDG for ICT Infrastructure in the DTPS, summarised government views in the meeting when he said that in a country like South Africa with infrastructure and access gaps, the question had to be asked whether the country wanted to raise money as its main goal. He said it was more about service and reaching all South Africans as part of the NDP but in an equitable manner.”

Whether it would be for free or go to the highest bidder were questions the DTPS was considering as it looked at all approaches. It would probably not be for free, he said, but there had to be a compromise where small companies are not at the mercy of big companies “because of market power relations.”

The Minister concluded that all in DTPS were listening to the views of the public and industry.

Ministerial clusters.

The next step before submission of the new Spectrum Policy to Cabinet during March was to consult with the particular clusters as part of the ICT Policy White Paper procedure. Once the Spectrum Policy had been approved by Cabinet and gazetted as part of the ICT White Paper, ICASA could proceed with the licensing process on the agreed basis.
Previous articles on category subject
Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout – ParlyReportSA
Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA

Posted in BEE, Communications, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

South Africa on international cybersecurity

Cybersecurity for SA to fight cybercrime….

A Green Paper for discussion on fighting cybercrime in South Africa is expected before the end of the year, Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, said in his budget vote speech and a Bill setting up a Cybersecurity Agency by the end of next year will be enacted, developing upon the current ad hoc response to cybercrime events.

cybercrimeExperts in the industry are hoping that the Green Paper will recommend private/state partnerships.

Some time ago the African Union called on each of its member nations to develop a policy on cybersecurity but experts complain that South Africa has no a culture of cybersecurity and is falling behind on partnerships that would enable the country to defeat what the United States has named as one of the greatest threats to its own national security.

Fraud flooding SA

With hundred of incidents a day in South Africa affecting households, banking institutions and financial houses, let alone those which affect international security and crime and policing matters, Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, has undertaken to finalise a South African National Cybersecurity Policy during the current financial year.

A National Cybersecurity Policy Framework was promised as far back as 2012 in response to a committee set up, tasked with monitoring the implementation of such a policy.  South Africa already has an Electronic Communications Security Computer Security Incident Response Team but this is acknowledge as a “pro tem” arrangement.

Small team of experts

Minister Mahlobo announced that a Cybersecurity Bill would be drafted setting up a
“Cybersecurity Centre sphere” which would “enhance the work of this small team” and the body in terms of the new Bill would become a government agency reporting to his department.

He also announced that a Green Paper expanding on intelligence needs in this area would be tabled in computerSchoolCabinet for approval during the third quarter of 2015/16. With broadband penetration becoming so pervasive in Africa, the 20% of Africa’s citizens now connected to the web are particularly vulnerable, it was noted.

The AU paper on cybersecurity generally describes four cyber-related components specified by the AU convention which should be invested in, namely a national, publicly available cybersecurity policy; cyber public-private partnerships in the national interests communicating with other countries; cybersecurity capacity building and training and a plan for developing a culture of cybersecurity countrywide.

Policy paper then Bill

As stated, the first component is that South Africa should undertake to develop, in collaboration with stakeholders, a national cybersecurity policy… and outline how the objectives of such a policy are to be achieved.   At last this is being dealt with.

Local IT experts have called for the department to adopt measures and a plan to develop capacity building with a view to offering training on all areas of cybersecurity and a clear policy which sets standards for the private sector and developers.
Other articles in this category or as background
Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout – ParlyReportSA
More state powers for ICASA proposed – ParlyReportSA
SAPS still trying to computerise – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Communications, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout

Broadband for SA needs local tech….

computerSchoolThe lack of IT skills in broadband development in government, especially those responsible for implementation of the new broadband policy in SA as well as technicians in the field, has become a major issue of debate in Parliament recently.

The department of telecommunications and postal services (DTPS) has increased it spend in consultancy services by nearly 400% in the last year according to its presentation documents to the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee.

Also, once again the rationale behind the splitting of the department of telecommunications and postal services (DTPS) away from the department of communications (DOC) was queried in Parliament as “not being in line with world trends” causing delays in implementation plans.

DTPS in long terms will benefit

Both these issues were responded to by the responsible minister, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, who was in attendance when DTPS presented their strategic and annual performance plans to the relevant portfolio committee.

Dr Cwele said that he was far happier to leave DOC concentrating on matters surrounding the SABC and migration to digital TV, leaving his department (DTPS) to pursue the objective of uplifting South Africa into the world of broadband.

Broadband will help all

This objective also fitted into the plan to re-model and reassess what was expected from the South African Post Office (SAPO) and for government to decide, like many other countries had done, where postal services fitted in and how to consolidate on the valuable rural outreach of SAPO in respect of other services required by poorer sections of the community.

What was clearly missing during the meeting was, according to parliamentarians, exact timelines for broadband introduction to schools, health services, government departments and state owned utilities, Dr Cwele being quite clear that DTPS had been mandated to ensure that affordable broadband was available.

Staff needed to do the job

Dr Cwele acknowledged, however, that DTPS was greatly under qualified to achieve this due to lack of technical skills and the department did not have enough capacity to deliver on its mandate, as this was a very technical sector of public services. It was too early to commit to timelines but at this stage they had to build the staff complement to do the job, he noted.

He said that DTPS had to bring highly skilled young people into the organisation considering the internet revolution and the growing need for national broadband services. “We need skills not expensive managers”, he added.

Technicians not paper creators

It was explained, in general, broadband refers to telecommunication in which a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information at greatly increased speed, the installation of which should bring costs down, South Africa having some of the highest communication cost factors in the world.

Ms Rosey Sekese, DG, DTPS, in presenting her strategic plan, said her immediate  priorities were:

• broadband connectivity focused on radio frequency spectrum
• cyber security
• the cost to communicate
• an Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy review
• a national e-strategy
• a turnaround plan for SAPO

The total budget allocation for the Department was R1.4 billion, a reduction from R2 billion in the previous financial year.

Opposition members wanted to know the criteria that DTPS had used to choose Telkom as the leading agency in the rollout of broadband and whether this was fair competition.

Also, they asked why DTPS had emphasised the roll-out of e-governance in the public service to meet NDP targets as first objective. Rather, they said, the focus should have been on business and industry, the ICT sector in the commerce and industry sectors needing this and who played a far greater role in economic development and job creation.

Telkom has to lead in this..

TelkomMinister Cwele responded that the selection of Telkom as the leading agency in the rollout of broadband was as a result of Telkom having the largest terrestrial fibre network and was also based on cost, as this was a state owned entity.

On business and industry needs, he also said DTPS needed to find a way to work with the private sector that could improve economic growth and he, the deputy minister and the DG had been in constant engagement with the private sector as it was realised that this was essential.

The department would also work together with the department of trade and industry and the department of small business development to create incentives for investment in SMMEs, as they realised that many small companies had been marginalised by slow internet services and limited access to the many international IT developments taking place and additional sea cable services.

Creating certainty

He added that he was perfectly aware of the challenges in the finalisation of a spectrum policy to internetcreate a smooth path for the regulators and he was also aware of the need to create certainty in the telecommunications industry. He acknowledged that DTPS was following closely the experiences of the Western Cape and Gauteng broadband rollout plans.

The minister promised that all critical posts within DTPS would be filled within the next three months. However, opposition members continued to draw attention to the question of the general IT skills shortage and said it was yet another “crisis about to happen”.

DA’s Gordon Mackenzie noted “a dramatic increase in outsourced services from R52.5m in 2014 to R230m in 2015” and said this route only added to the high cost of communications in South Africa.

Other articles in this category or as background
Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA
Parliament gets final dates for digital TV – ParlyReportSA
More state powers for ICASA proposed – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Communications, Education, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments


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