Don't do it, GSMA tells Sentech - TechCentral

Don’t do it, GSMA tells Sentech

Sentech should concentrate on building SA’s digital terrestrial television broadcasting network and forget about trying to involve itself, again, in building a national broadband telecommunications network.

That’s the view of GSM Association (GSMA) government affairs special adviser Ross Bateson. The GSMA represents most mobile operators worldwide and is a powerful industry lobby group.

Bateson says Sentech needs to concentrate its limited operational and financial resources on rolling out digital terrestrial television. “They have plans to be a last-mile connector of mobile broadband but they don’t have the capacity or the means to invest in that kind of network at the moment,” he says.

Communications minister Roy Padayachie is keen for Sentech to use its access to scarce radio frequency spectrum to build a broadband network serving rural areas, including schools and clinics. The company recently outlined its plans to build a network during a hearing in parliament.

But, says Bateson, “I’d really like to see Sentech concentrating on the move to digital TV and let the mobile community roll out broadband networks.”

Bateson says Sentech has the wrong type of spectrum to build broadband connectivity in rural areas. It wants to use its 50MHz allocation of spectrum in the 2,6GHz band to build the network, but Bateson says this band is far better suited to delivering connectivity in dense urban areas.

“The idea of building rural networks at this spectrum is really silly,” he says. “But we’re still seeing political support for it.”

It would make more sense for operators to use the “digital dividend” — the spectrum around 800MHz that will be freed up when broadcasters switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television — to build wireless broadband networks in outlying areas.

Bateson says also that Sentech’s allocation of 50MHz in the 2,6GHz band is too generous. He believes at least some of this spectrum should be rescinded and given to operators who are better positioned financially and operationally to build networks. “But taking away spectrum from Sentech is politically very difficult.”

Sentech was first given access the spectrum more than five years ago, when it was mandated by former communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri to build a rival fixed-wireless network to stimulate competition to Telkom.

However, the company focused almost exclusively on rolling out connectivity in the wealthier suburbs in the country’s big cities and towns, largely ignoring the rural areas.

Still, the network failed after Sentech couldn’t keep pace with better-funded and more customer-focused cellphone operators rolling out third-generation mobile networks.

Bateson says Sentech would be best advised to walk away from its broadband plans. “I don’t know why they want [the spectrum]. They don’t know why they want it, they don’t have the money to invest in a mobile broadband network, and they are [already]very busy people.”  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral


  1. Come on Duncan, you had nothing to do so you pulled something out of your strawhat. Bateson really have their teeth in it. Operators should look at international markets not local. Locally they should improvise.

    Government is bringing change to the local community and operators should take us to the international community. We evolved over time and are still following that lifecycle. Bateson GDP and not LGDP this for our economy.

  2. Duncan, you need to start reflecting/posting views from other stakeholders as well other than a few opportunistic interest groups. This article is not balanced and you should have approached Sentech or any other person with a different view and provided us with both sides of the coin.

    Similarily with the Icasa auction requirements you never provided a view that supports the 30% HDI requirement. Interestingly enough, this weekend DTI had an advert of 5 sectors that are all targeting/implementing a 30-35% BBBEE requirement in their environments which confirms that Icasa is in line with what others want to achieve. Instead you are giving platform to parties like Vodacom that want the auction postponed because they are not ready. Few months ago some complained when this auction was postponed and now want to change the rules or delay until they can qualify.

    Can we please have balanced views!!!!

  3. I hear you, Maqhekeza. But we can’t always get every angle of a story immediately on news reports, especially when comments such as those in this article were made at a press conference or public presentation. We feel it’s better to get the comments out there as quickly as possible, especially when they involve a pivotal industry organisation like the GSMA. Sentech is holding a press conference on Wednesday where we will be pursuing these issues further. I know this approach isn’t always ideal but when someone says something controversial we can’t wait a day or two to pursue every possible angle. We’re an online publication, not a weekly print title, so immediacy matters. We’ll of course continue to pursue all angles to the story, but we can’t always reflect them all at once. That will happen through further articles, analysis and comment. It’s the nature of this beast.

  4. Broadcasters have too much spectrum on

    My view is that 698-862MHz i.e. 164MHz should be set aside in Africa for IMT (like Region3 Asia) and Broadcasters should not be allowed to use spectrum above 700MHz in the new analog to digital TV migration process.

    Broadcasters still have 470-700MHz i.e. 230MHz and even more spectrum in VHF 174-254MHz for their one-directional transmit service. This will ensure low cost of equipment, terminals and devices for a common LTE wireless standard accross Africa if we follow the China and India spectrum model. This way one can REMOVE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE!!!!

    Share this spectrum between the 4 national cellular operators in SA to ensure enough competition even in rural areas.

    Broadcasters should be forced to be more spectrum efficient. They have 15 TIMES MORE SPECTRUM THAN CELLULAR OPERATORS!!!

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