Sentech to get more cash

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 07 Nov 2007

Sentech, the Department of Communications (DOC) and the National Treasury are in discussions to capitalise the national signal distributor over and above the R500 million already allocated, says trade and industry minister Mandisi Mpahlwa.

He was addressing a parliamentary media briefing yesterday, on behalf of the economic, investment and employment cluster of ministries.

Mpahlwa said Sentech's capitalisation would enable it to roll-out government wireless communications services to the rural areas, particularly for services such as health, education and the SA Post Office.

"This capitalisation will define the core of what government thinks Sentech is about," he said.

Earlier this month, finance minister Trevor Manuel confirmed R500 million had been earmarked for Sentech in the adjustment budget for the roll-out of its broadband services.

However, Sentech has been pleading for the past four years for funding so it can begin the provision of digital terrestrial TV (DTT), for which it has only received R200 million out of the R1 billion it requires. According to the DOC's DTT migration plan, the country is supposed to receive a DTT signal by the end of 2011.

BPO boost

Mpahlwa also said the DOC would gazette the draft guidelines for the landing of government's proposed undersea cable at the end of November. He said the investment is crucial to cut telecommunications costs between African countries and Europe.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) investment is to be given a shot in the arm through the discounted telecoms pricing model, on which the DOC will soon make a public statement.

BPO and tourism are two sectors highlighted by the Department of Trade and Industry for the Government Assistance and Support Programme. Mpahlwa said six BPO applications had been received, which represent an approximate investment of R500 million, with the potential to create 9 000 jobs over the next three years.

Mpahlwa also noted that an investor call centre, aimed at supporting those who invest more than R100 million in the country, would be established. Proposals for the call centre would be evaluated this month, he added.

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