With the government drive to increase broadband access across South Africa there has been much said over the past few months about the merits of the initiative. But now there is also a price tag that has been attached to the venture and it is a rather large one…
Government has stated that the goal of universal broadband by 2020 is attainable, but this means that almost all of the existing copper infrastructure will need to be replaced as it is unsuitable for high speed data transfer services such as HD video streaming. The cost of replacing all of this is astronomical and comes in at about R60bn according to Suveer Ramdhani, chief data officer at Seacom*. He further went on to clarify that these costs would have to be incurred by the likes of Telkom, Neotel, Vodacom, MTN, Vumatel and DFA.
Broadband for All Will be a Reality at Some Point!
Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, the deputy minister of the department of telecommunications and postal services, stated recently that the first phase of SA Connect would see the delivery of just about 180000 km of fibre broadband to areas across the country. About 160000 km of this fibre optic cable has already been deployed, but there are still a few key challenges that remain. This includes the fact that end users will have to buy into the upgrades, which has resulted in the initiatives delivering services to mainly wealthier suburbs in major city centres and the surrounding suburbs. Only once this is done will poorer areas receive connectivity. The good news however is as each suburb is connected, it becomes cheaper and cheaper to connect the neighbouring suburb.
Telkom to Take the Lead
Telkom has been identified by the government as the “lead agency” for all official government broadband roll-out, but it is believed that at some point partnerships with other private sector companies will be included. This will help speed up the process as companies naturally tend to collaborate by not building in the same areas, which will in turn allow more areas to be developed quickly.
*Seacom manages the submarine fibre broadband cable that links South Africa with Europe.