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SA Connect tender bidders revealed

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Connect SA aims to deliver widespread broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020, and 100% by 2030.
Connect SA aims to deliver widespread broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020, and 100% by 2030.

Six companies are in the running for the tender to roll out the country's SA Connect project, the State IT Agency (SITA) told ITWeb.

The companies bidding for the SA Connect tender are: Broadband Infraco, EOH, MTN, Neotel, Vodacom, and Tradepage & Galela Telecommunications as a joint venture, according to the agency.

Despite being pegged as the lead agency to assist with broadband rollout, the majority state-owned Telkom is missing from the list of bidders for the SA Connect tender.

SITA, which is tasked with awarding the tender for the ambitious broadband project, confirmed that only the six companies mentioned above responded to the request for bid (RFB) as per the bid requirements.

In a statement, SITA CTO Pandelani Munyai says: "SITA is unable to comment on any company that did not bid, as the SA Connect RFB document was published in the open market to allow any qualified organisation to bid for it accordingly."

Responding to ITWeb's question as to why Telkom did not submit a bid for the tender, the company says it is not able to offer any comment. "We believe it's the government domain to comment on this as they issued the tender."

Go to tender

SA Connect is the country's big broadband policy that was unveiled in December 2013 by then minister of communications, Yunus Carrim.

The policy and associated strategy outlines several projects to boost broadband connectivity and access in the country, including an overall vision to give every citizen access to a broadband connection.

The initiative aims to deliver 100% broadband connectivity for all schools, health and government facilities by 2020, with phase one set out to connect government facilities in eight rural district municipalities to fast, secure and always-available Internet.

It is also planned to deliver widespread broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020, and 100% by 2030.

DTPS minister Siyabonga Cwele has urged SITA to speed up awarding the broadband tender.
DTPS minister Siyabonga Cwele has urged SITA to speed up awarding the broadband tender.

However, there has been little progress in implementing the project, despite president Jacob Zuma declaring 2015 as the year of state broadband rollout.

At last year's State of the Nation Address, Zuma announced government's decision to designate Telkom as the lead agency for SA Connect. The president's announcement was met with displeasure and public outcry from opposition parties and industry stakeholders.

Democratic Alliance MP and shadow minister for telecommunications and postal services, Marian Shinn, previously noted the appointment of a lead agent for the broadband project needed to go through legal and competitive processes.

According to Shinn, invitations to tender or requests for proposals had to be conducted in relation to the SA Connect project.

Lack of clarity

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), which is overseeing the national broadband project, soon clarified that Telkom was only 'designated' and not 'appointed' as lead agent.

SITA published the SA Connect tender in July, with the announcement of a winner expected to be made in October.

After missing the October deadline, SITA has since provided no indication as to when the winning bidder will be announced.

DTPS minister Siyabong Cwele has admitted the roll out of phase one of SA Connect hinges on SITA awarding a tender.

National Treasury's Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and its Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure document also revealed SITA's delay in appointing a service provider for the broadband project resulted in the department missing its mid-year target.

"The announcement will be made as soon as the procurement process has been concluded," says SITA.

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