Cabinet has approved the long-delayed national integrated ICT policy white paper, minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.
TechCentral reported on Tuesday that cabinet was set to discuss the white paper at its scheduled meeting on Wednesday and that the document could be released to the public as early as this week.
In brief remarks at a post-cabinet media briefing, Radebe said the white paper replaces a separate white paper on telecommunications and postal services.
“This integrated ICT policy white paper will outline how government will ensure this sector fulfils its potential to facilitate inclusive and economic transformation in South Africa,” Radebe said.
“The minister of telecoms & postal services [Siyabonga Cwele] will convene a separate media briefing to unpack this policy, hopefully on Sunday,” he added.
The developments come in the same week that Cwele faces off in court with Icasa over the communications regulator’s planned spectrum auction.
Cwele has taken umbrage with Icasa’s decision to issue an invitation to apply (ITA) to interested parties wanting to take part in an auction of so-called high-demand spectrum in early 2017.
Icasa published the ITA before government had finalised the white paper, which is expected to set out the state’s policy on how spectrum should be allocated.
The draft white paper is understood to propose a radical change in the way spectrum is assigned in South Africa.
Cwele is said to want a single national wholesale open-access network in which all of South Africa’s commercial operators and service providers will invest equity. The country’s two biggest mobile operators, MTN and Vodacom, are vehemently opposed to such a model, saying it is untested and could undermine investment in the sector.
In a statement issued late on Thursday afternoon, Cwele welcomed cabinet’s approval of the white paper.
“The approval paves the way for the start of a legislative programme that will amend laws where necessary and set up the new proposed structures or institutions. Structures that don’t require legislation will now be set up. Consultations with South Africans will continue during the process to enact legislation,” the minister said.
“This integrated ICT policy outlines supply-side measures that will ensure the roll-out of quality communications and broadband infrastructure to reach all areas of the country to ensure universal access and services,” he continued.
“In this regard, it contains a new open-access policy that allows access to existing and future networks by all, and importantly by new entrants and small, medium and micro enterprises. This policy aspect will reduce the duplication in infrastructure roll-out and minimise the cost of extending the networks to reach the entire country.
“It also contains a new spectrum policy that facilitates spectrum sharing and equal access to the spectrum by all licensed operators, new entrants and SMMEs.”
Cwele said a “rapid deployment” policy is contained in the white paper that will streamline permissions and access by the network operators so as to enable faster and cheaper roll-out of services.
“The pace of rolling out networks has in the past been hampered by the bureaucracy associated with getting municipal and other permissions. The rapid deployment policy will resolve this dilemma,” he said.
The white paper also streamlines and consolidates government structures and outlines government priorities in terms of delivering services through the modern technology, the minister said.
“Universal access to services is a key consideration. A universal funding strategy is outlined, with the Digital Fund being established to collect industry contributions and grants to support universal services and access. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media