Telecoms industry players have urged all stakeholders to collaborate on the roll out of network infrastructure across South Africa, with a coherent government broadband policy central to this goal.
During a panel discussion at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) 2013, industry players urged the government to implement a clear policy on collaboration to prevent duplication of infrastructure.
Puleng Kwele, chief technical officer (CTO) at South Africa’s state-owned Broadband Infraco, said: “It is the responsibility of government to ensure that the people of this country have access to the internet.”
She said the policy had not evolved as it should have done, and the market was inefficient as a result.
“The policy has not evolved. There are pockets of market efficiency, but it hasn’t evolved everywhere,” she said. “That is why your costs are high.”
Collaboration between stakeholders was deemed to be crucial if high-speed internet was to be successfully rolled out nationwide.
Bashier Sallie, managing director of wholesale and networks at Telkom, said South Africa did not have enough infrastructure for broadband to be rolled out countrywide.
“A happy mix of technology and the right partnerships is what it will take,” he said. “We are not doing enough infrastructure sharing. It needs to happen at each layer.”
Lambo Kanagaratnam, chief enterprise business officer of MTN, said a new investment model involving partnerships and state involved was needed to bring costs down.
“What we have found is the biggest challenge is the cost of the devices,” he said. “How do you get these children access to a device they can use to communicate? How do you enable policy and how do you create consistency?
“There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment. You talk about collaboration, maybe it has to be forced.”
Kumaran Nair, telecommunications executive at IBM South Africa, agreed that the approach needed to be different to bring on board all players.
“Much of what we need can be fulfilled by infrastructure that is already in place,” he said.
Kwele said engineers within operators should devise the plan, which the government should then roll out.
“We draw up a plan, we understand what needs to be done, and then policymakers decide how to fund it,” she said.