Sentech is preparing to launch data centre services to both the public and private sector, as the signal distributor repositions to become a digital infrastructure company.
The state-owned company is adjusting for a multi-dimensional approach, which will see it cater to the needs of its broadband clients, as well as SA’s data privacy laws.
In a written interview with ITWeb, SentechCEO Mlamli Booi revealed the data centre project forms part of its broader mission to provide connectivity and infrastructure services to the private and public sectors. It will also align with the requirements of the imminent National Data and Cloud Policy, he noted.
The draft policy, which was published on 1 April 2021 for public comment, proposes to develop a state digital infrastructure company and high-performance computing and data processing centre.
It also aims to consolidate the excess capacity of publicly-funded data centres, and deliver processing, data facilities and cloud computing capacity.
According to Booi, as a first step in its data centre plan, Sentech is upgrading its existing Nasrec-based tier two data centre into a tier three data centre, as it looks to cater to a larger market and diversify its services.
This data centre, which is expected to be completed in the coming months, will provide co-location and hosting services to its clients across the telecoms sector, and will be officially launched before the end of the 2023/2024 financial year, he notes.
“The aim and purpose of the Sentech data centres is to provide services such as co-location, hosting, infrastructure-as-a service, software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and cloud services to business-to-business customers and government.”
Booi would not divulge how many data centres are in the pipeline, nor where the investment would be sourced.
Sentech is a state-owned enterprise, operating in the broadcasting signal distribution and telecoms sectors, and reporting to communications and digital technologies ministry under minister Mondli Gungubele.
It provides broadcast transmission services to the SABC, Etv, MNet, community broadcasters and over 150 radio stations countrywide on a daily basis.
The signal distributor is on the verge of forming a state-owned digital infrastructure company through the acquisition of Broadband Infraco (BBI), as part of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ strategic priorities to reconfigure some of its entities.
The reconfiguration of BBI and Sentech will result in the establishment of a state-owned digital infrastructure company that will incorporate broadband, satellite, cloud and other technologies that talk to infrastructure, according to the department.
The growth in Africa’s cloud sector is leading to more firms choosing to invest in the data centre market.
Since 2019, SA has seen an influx of tech companies investing in local data centres, including hyperscalers like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, as well as the likes of Teraco, Dimension Data, Google and Huawei.
According to Booi, Sentech’s data centres will be used to address the country’s broadband and data sovereignty objectives, as government seeks to strengthen its capacity to deliver innovative services to citizens, as well as prioritise cyber security issues.
The National Data and Cloud Policy forms a key part of this mission, as it highlights government’s intention to use cloud computing to execute multiple services, while ensuring compliance and governance laws are adhered to by the public and private sectors.
Sentech has put systems in place to ensure the first data centre will have the utmost security, Booi points out.
“Sentech has no intention of owning any data or content. We continue engaging potential customers and partners.”
During the recentAfrica Tech Week conference, held in Cape Town, Booi highlighted Sentech’s key role to ensure government is able to provide affordable internet connectivity to all South Africans.
“We are doing this by ensuring that connectivity, which is prime, is made available to all citizens. We also provide services to our customers who want to provide connectivity to their end-users wirelessly and we share with them our infrastructure through our data centre in Nasrec.”
Sentech has developed a streaming platform used by broadcasters such as Faith.TV, a religious streaming service. It is currently in the second phase of the rollout, which involves extending the platform to other broadcasters.
Among its initiatives, the signal distributor plans to build a South African-owned communications satellite, which will play a crucial role in addressing media and connectivity issues in SA.
Booi confirms to ITWeb that Sentech is looking to bring in private investors to build the multibillion-rand satellite project – a process he describes as “progressing well”.
“We are pleased with the progress made thus far and anticipate that the project will proceed as planned.
“We have continuous engagements with our key stakeholders, who are fully supportive and committed to the project’s objectives. It is estimated it will take about three to five years from the project’s formal commencement until satellite launch,” he says.