Analysts sceptical state will meet broadband target
ANALYSTS are sceptical that the government will achieve its target of extending broadband access to every South African by 2020, calling the project too ambitious.
The government is embarking on a big national broadband roll-out. The private sector has committed to working closely with the state to help it meet its objectives. Currently, overall broadband penetration in SA is estimated to be less than 15%.
International Data Corporation telecommunications analyst Spiwe Chireka said last week the 2020 target would entail aggressive expansion into some areas that were not very lucrative.
"By the time the planning . is done we are looking at about only five years left for the implementation. This is a very short space of time to move from just under 15% penetration to 100%," she said.
She said the fact that the private sector "has selective rollout strategies is not likely to change unless there is a push or a dangling carrot of sorts from the government".
Dominic Cull, legal advise r to the Internet Service Providers Association, said the target was ambitious. "I challenge anyone to show any country in the world that has 100% broadband. Maybe 80% is more realistic given the rate at which things are going; the prospects do not look good." Siyabonga Madyibi, executive for regulatory affairs at Internet Solutions, said SA was in "need of a greater co-ordinated effort" to ensure that the 2020 broadband objectives were met.
"Currently, most efforts are extremely disjointed. Until the formation of a single platform or committee that can present a co-ordinated rollout strategy, encompassing local and regional regulations, we will not meet the 2020 goal," he said.
The Department of Communications said in May it had "to find practical solutions to fasttrack the uptake and usage of broadband services by the majority of our people".
Ms Chireka said the government should look into a public-private partnership model, with the state providing finance or rollout logistics support. The private sector and the government should enter into a "BOT (build, operate and transfer) model as that would ensure that government can 'eventually do what it wants' with the network after the private sector has recouped its costs.
"Given the track record of government entities, I believe the private sector should be involved in the operating of the network and maybe government in the building of the network," she said.
In other countries, shared networks have encouraged the private sector to aggressively roll out its networks, Ms Chireka said.
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