South African Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim told delegates at the annual Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (Satnac) in Stellenbosch that he intends to finalise the country’s radio frequency spectrum policy by March 2014.
“We aim to finalise the Spectrum Policy by March 2014. This includes the issue of high-demand spectrum for broadband, which is linked to digital migration,” he said during his speech, which was titled South Africa’s Broadband Policy – Too many Delays, Now for Progress Together.
In addition, Carrim said that he would present the policy to other governmental departments by November this year in preparation for the final policy.
He also pointed out that it is essential for all government departments to work together in regards to the policy. “The latest draft of the Broadband Policy, Strategy and Plan will be finalised by the Department of Communications (DoC) within 14 days and taken to other relevant Ministers for their consideration over the next month or so, including through SIP (Strategic Integrated Project) 15 of the National Infrastructure Plan, which is overseen by the Presidential Coordinating Commission. We are very clear! We need to ensure access to cheaper, faster, better quality broadband. It is long overdue.”
Carrim highlighted that the objectives of the Broadband Policy would not only ensure quality broadband, but that rural and under-serviced areas would be prioritised.
“The objectives of the Broadband Policy include ensuring universal service and access to reliable, affordable and secure broadband services by all citizens prioritising rural and under-serviced areas; expediting the deployment of broadband networks and services in the country; ensuring the continued availability and expansion of broadband capacity to support economic and social goals of the country; reducing the cost of broadband services and customer premise equipments; and clarifying the roles of the Government, state owned companies (SOCs) and the private sector.”
Policy vacuum on broadband
“There is a need to ensure effective coordination in the construction of broadband networks in the country. Uncoordinated efforts often lead to duplication of resources by various entities resulting in them deploying infrastructure in the same place. The adoption of SIPs provides opportunities to piggy back on the rollout of other utility networks, such as roads, water, sanitation, rail and electricity, in the rollout of broadband networks. We are exploring the possibility that ducts be installed in all major publicly funded utility infrastructures at construction phase, to facilitate the extension of existing networks and the rollout of planned broadband networks. This is a matter being considered as part of our Broadband Policy and Plan,” he explained.
Carrim ended his speech by saying, “We are in the very early stages of a journey towards an extraordinary new world – a broadband world. We would like all of you to take an active part in this journey. Our job as government is to create the space for you to do so. And we certainly will.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor