Siyabonga Cwele. Picture: SIYA DUDA/GCIS
Siyabonga Cwele. Picture: SIYA DUDA/GCIS

Government is speeding up its broadband roll-out, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said.

The department has placed broadband penetration as one of its strategic priorities in a bid to achieve 100% broadband access for the population by 2020.

Delivering his budget vote speech in Parliament on Thursday, Cwele said state-owned technology companies Broadband Infraco and the State Information Technology Agency were mandated to implement phase one of the broadband roll-out in order to overcome delays in the procurement process.

"In 2018 we shall focus on connecting 570 sites, of which 327 will be completed by end of June. In this financial year, Broadband Infraco will expand its fibre network by a further 1,000km and increase its points of presence to 176," Cwele said.

Cwele said the 2016 Statistics SA General Household Survey reported a national household internet usage of about 60%, mainly through mobile devices.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa’s) State of ICT Sector 2018 report suggests some "worrying trends about duopoly market dominance", said Cwele.

The Icasa report showed that operators with a large market share charge more for services than small operators; some dominant operators charge locals eight times more per data bundle than their bundle cost in other African countries; and poor people pay more for data bundles than the rich.

Cwele pointed out that a poor person who could only afford to buy 50MB pays 50c per megabyte, while a customer who can afford to buy 20GB pays only 4c per megabyte.

Last month, Icasa released the final regulations on the end-user and subscriber charter regulations. One of the measures contained in the regulations is that network operators must allow subscribers to roll over their unused data. In terms of the regulations, all licensees will be required to send usage depletion notifications to consumers when their usage is at 50%, 80% and 100% depletion levels.

Cwele said signal distributor Sentech will conclude its business plan and funding model for a South African-owned communications satellite by building on the country’s national capabilities and partnerships.

"The aim will be to reduce our current leasing costs to government and build our technical skills," he said.

Government was also looking to accelerate the development, growth and sustainability of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the ICT sector. Government has identified SMEs as crucial for job creation.

Cwele said the Digital Development Fund Bill will be taken to Cabinet later in 2018 for approval and for public consultations to commence.

DA MP and telecommunications spokeswoman Marian Shinn said the fourth industrial revolution would not happen until the government assured ICT companies that their investments were secure and would not be expropriated.