Sentech ready to roll

By Damaria Senne, ITWeb senior journalist
Johannesburg, 20 Feb 2008

Sentech has finally received the R500 million funding from government for its national wireless broadband network.

This will enable the state-owned signal distributor to begin the roll-out of the network that is to provide communications redundancy for the 2010 World Cup and assist government to meet its development agenda.

Sentech's funding follows the revision of Sentech's project plan, which saw the state-owned entity halve its estimated budget for the wireless broadband network from between R600 million-R1 billion to R500 million.

It also comes after more than 20 months of waiting, following communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri's announcement of the project during her May 2006 budget speech.

Sentech and the Department of Communications, through which the funding was transferred from National Treasury, were unable to immediately provide details and new time lines for the wireless broadband network roll-out.

However, Sentech spokesman Hulisani Rasivhaga emphasised that planning work had commenced while Sentech waited for National Treasury to approve and transfer the money.

The network project failed to take off as initially envisaged due to funding delays that were caused by an investigation to ensure Sentech's wireless broadband offering would not compete with private broadband providers such as MTN, Vodacom and iBurst.

Following the investigation, finance minister Trevor Manuel announced Sentech's R500 million allocation in an extraordinary funding announcement, in September last year.

The funds were to be paid following approval of Sentech's revised business plan.

While details of the revised business model have not yet been revealed, the network was initially intended to serve communities which mainstream broadband providers find commercially unviable to service.

In addition, Department of Communications DG Lyndall Shope-Mafole said the state entity is the obvious choice to provide for government's wireless broadband needs.

Related stories:
Treasury earmarks R500m for Sentech
Sentech revises network business plan
Sentech still waiting for govt funding
Sentech pins hopes on minister
Glimmer of hope for Sentech
Sentech wants to source own funding