Ramaphosa promises rapid broadband deployment

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 10 Feb 2022
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The years-long delay in the switch from analogue to digital television transmission has held back the economy’s technological development, said president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa was delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA) during a hybrid joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament – the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

This year’s SONA was, for the first time, held at the Cape Town City Hall, following a fire in the Parliamentary precinct last month.

Said Ramaphosa: “One of the greatest constraints on the technological developments of our economy has been the unacceptable delay in the migration of broadcasting from analogue to digital.

“The switch-off of analogue transmission has been completed in a number of provinces already,” he added. “As I announced in the State of the Nation Address last year, the other provinces will move to digital signal by the end of March 2022.”

The president indicated he has witnessed first-hand the joy the public has when they gain access to digital TV that has a clear picture quality and more channels.

“As part of this process, government will continue to subsidise low-income households so they can access a set-top box and make the switch to digital TV.”

After missing the ITU-mandated June 2015 digital migration deadline, South Africa has embarked on a plan to expedite the country’s Broadcast Digital Migration programme.

During the SONA, Ramaphosa pointed out that when innovation is held back by a scarcity of broadband spectrum, companies are reluctant to invest, which therefore stifles the economy.

According to him, communications regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa will commence with the process of auctioning the high-frequency communications spectrum in about three weeks from now.

“This will unlock new spectrum for mobile telecommunication for the first time ever in over a decade,” he said.

In addition, Ramaphosa said government will facilitate the rapid deployment of broadband infrastructure across all municipalities by establishing a standard model for the granting of municipal permissions.

“These reforms will revolutionise the country’s technological development, making faster broadband accessible to more people; but, more importantly, reducing the cost of digital communications.”

The president delivered his address amid the legal tussle around the country’s spectrum allocation process.

ICT industry commentators told ITWeb that the president must use the SONA to spark some action regarding spectrum allocation and auction.

The allocation of spectrum by means of an auction is at the forefront of the state’s economic reforms, as it is expected to add billions of rand to the fiscus.

Furthermore, spectrum will help mobile operators provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services. On the consumer front, it would mean making affordable data available to firms and households.