Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has told parliament that every household in South Africa – whether rich or poor – should receive an allocation of 10GB of data per month.
The minister, speaking during the debate on last week’s state of the nation address by President Cyril Ramaphosa, did not explicitly state that the allocation should be free of charge – but she did hint as much, saying data had become an essential service, much like water and electricity.
“At some point, South Africa will say that each month every household, whether rich or poor, whether employed or unemployed, will have access 10GB of data per month without failure…”
She did not say who would pay for the data, assuming it is to be free of charge for consumers.
She said her department – communications & digital technologies – is working on a policy dealing with the allocation of radio frequency spectrum for 5G services and that, as part of this, government intends to “prescribe minimum data to the home because data has become a new utility, like water and electricity”.
Curiously, the minister also said the department is working on policies for both sixth- and seventh-generation mobile technologies, neither of which yet exists or will exist commercially for many years to come.
On the current spectrum licensing process, which is the subject of litigation by Telkom, Ntshavheni said there is “continuous engagement” taking place between stakeholders. She said it was “no coincidence” that Telkom withdrew its urgent application to interdict communications regulator Icasa from proceeding with a planned spectrum auction in March.
“The licensing of high-frequency (sic) spectrum will improve the ability of mobile communications operators to build robust telecommunications with better penetration and reach,” she told MPs. She also emphasised that the licensing process will place additional obligations on operators to deploy infrastructure to schools, hospitals, clinics and the offices of traditional leaders.
“Through Icasa, we have set social services obligations to connect within 36 months of licensing of the spectrum all outstanding public schools, all 18 520, as indicated by [basic education] minister [Angie] Motshekga, public health facilities, which includes clinics and public hospitals, 5 731 [of them], and offices of traditional leaders or leaders authorties, 8 241 [of them].” — © 2022 NewsCentral Media