Tag Archive | Spectrum Policy Paper

Broadband allocation could involve SABC

ICT White Paper to set up broadband allocation…

An Integrated ICT White Paper involving broadband allocation is in its final stages of preparation involvingSiyabonga Cweley consultation with various parties, said Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, during his Budget vote speech to Parliament.  This matter is a long outstanding issue in the industry and delays are imperiling broadband development.

What has concerned Opposition members during earlier parliamentary meetings on the subject was the remark by the Minister that “Some of the delay has been the delay to allow the Department of Communications to make a contribution to the decision regarding allocation across the spectrum and how this would be applied.”

This remark must be seen in the light of the fact that the two ministries and departments were split some five years ago and the conclusion is that Minister Faith Muthambi and the SABC under it’s new and controversial head of broadcasting, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has been drawn into the equation.

Minister Cwele also said at the time that also added that his Ministry was working with Treasury to establish a “funding model” for the broadband “roll out”, estimated at R67bn.

Spectrum policy included

In his budget speech, Minister Cwele re-affirmed that the White Paper would be supported by a new Spectrum Policy Paper in order to provide for “open or public access networks and opening up the use of high demand broadband spectrum for use by all licensees while adequately compensating those who invest in infrastructure.   All South Africans must benefit from participation in the digital society, he said.                                  ‘

Until now, there have been a number of unfortunate reasons for the holdup in broadband which have been given by government in parliamentary meetings to date. With both DTPS and Minister Cwele present at the most recent parliamentary meeting before Parliament with ICASA as the regulatory body also  present, it became quite evident  that the two were at loggerheads on the manner and method of spectrum allocation.

Different signals

Minister Cwele, during the portfolio meeting, prioritised his department’s requirement as being the need to

transform the sector to ensure meaningful Black participation when allocation takes place. ICASA meanwhile placed far less emphasis on this, preferring an allocation on an “auction” basis style whereby bidders not only name their price but declared their additional contributions to Black upliftment and general social and community development programmes, knowing this would more likely attract outside investors.

Dr. Cwele admitted at the time that “broadband allocation is perhaps the biggest regulatory bottleneck in the South African deployment of wireless technologies at the moment.”

Minister says industry “monopolistic”

In his subsequent budget vote speech he notably remarked, “Radical supply side interventions will reduce barriers to investors by moving away  from monopolistic infrastructure allowing for competition in opening access tobroadband broadband networks”.

The Minister told MPs in his speech that the White Paper will provide for “a simplified, streamlined and nationally coordinated framework to accelerate the use of networks meaning, he said, a capability to “drastically reduce the costs to operators and, down the line, to consumers.”

This issue has been plaguing the South Africa consumer market for a number of years, he added, and it was widely accepted that with the growth of cell phone usage by all income groups, he said, the present pricing cannot continue at the expense of ordinary households.

Domestic WiFi roaming

Separately, private sector operators such as Cisco have said that any such move will present mobile operators intelecommunications South Africa with a tremendous opportunity to optimize capital and operational expenditures and improve user experience.

From discussion after the Minister had spoken, it emerged also from MPs that the more mobile data offloaded makes viable alternative to mobile broadband users in crowded locations such as shopping malls where spectrum availability for present mobile access to networks is limited.   In addition, it was noted that a bigger data offload will give operators the opportunity to reduce data costs, allowing them to accelerate adoption of competitive market share opportunities. The Minister made no comment on this and it was clear that the BEE component was a ministry priority.

Crosscutting in government

HlengiweMkhizeThe Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Posts, Hlengiwe Mkhize, followed up the Minister in her address to the committee by focusing on “discussions taking place with the labour, public service and administration and higher education and training departments to boost ICT skills.”    She also mentioned that the White Paper would map out some of the internet connectivity plans for the rural economy to stimulate growth and opportunities.

In response to both Minister’s briefings, the following day in debate Opposition members said as far as the public service use of broadband was concerned in all aspects of communications, health and education, “it was time for the discussions to stop withe other departments and for the roll out to begin.”

 MPs noted the comment that out of 46 African countries surveyed, the cheapest mobile prepaid product in South Africa is still nearly 7.5 times more expensive than the African continent’s cheapest similar product.   The South African government is one of the smallest users of broadband facilities in the world, according to Cape Town based Research ICT Africa.

 Previous articles on category subject  

Broadband allocation on its way – ParlyReportSA

Govt and Nersa differ on broadband – ParlyReportSA

Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA

Parliament gets final dates for digital TV – ParlyReportSA

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