Minister sets deadline for South African fibre and wireless strategy

By:
Alan Burkitt-Gray
Published on:

South Africa plans to give details of national fibre and wholesale wireless projects by end of 2017

South Africa’s telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele wants to put plans for a national fibre network strategy to the government by the end of the year.

At the same time Cwele is continuing with plans for some of the country’s wireless spectrum to be reserved for a wholesale open-access network (Woan).

Cwele, speaking in a media interview at the FTTX Council Africa conference in Cape Town, says he wants to “coordinate and facilitate deployment of infrastructure to reduce costs drastically”.

He wants to ensure property owners and local authorities allow the construction of fibre networks “and do not see network operators as cash cows” by charging excessively, but see them “as instruments of development, as instruments of creating smart cities and social well-being”.

Cwele said he wants to put the new policy to South Africa’s Cabinet by the end of this calendar year. Most of the policies he wants to implement “won’t require further legislation”, he said in the interview, with South Africa’s TechCentral.

Meanwhile South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is completing its strategy for Woan, he said, and will brief Cabinet on what he called “an extraordinary measure to help us boost growth in the economy” by the end of 2017.

“We’ve still got 22 million people who are not using the internet,” he said. “You have to come up with a more affordable internet.”

The development of this strategy, to reduce the cost of spectrum, is why Cwele’s department is taking the regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to court. Icasa wants to auction spectrum but “we should not look at making huge profits from spectrum sales”, said Cwele. “Organs of state shouldn’t be taking each other to court.”

Cwele and the government want more participants in South Africa’s wireless market. “The current operators are not the only people,” he said in the interview.

Opening the conference, Cwele said the government has run a pilot project to connect government offices in rural areas and to “stimulate uptake by local business and communities”. The government is “planning a public-private partnership to connect the rest of the country as soon as we complete the feasibility study, financial modelling and sustainability of the project. We hope to call for the request for proposals for this megaproject by the end of the current financial year.”