The department of communications has defined broadband as an always-on, multimedia-capable connection able to offer download speeds of more than 256kbit/s.
The definition forms a crucial part of government’s final draft broadband policy, approved by cabinet last week. Government describes the policy as “critical for SA to ensure realisation of the goal of an all-inclusive information society that can enjoy the economic benefits associated with broadband in both urban and rural areas”.
Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda has set a goal of 2019 to ensure “universal access to broadband” by ensuring South Africans are able to subscribe to broadband either individually, or as a household, or are able to access a broadband service directly or indirectly at a private or public access point.
The draft policy defines universal access as meaning that there will be a public access point within a 2km radius of any person in a sparsely populated area, that household penetration will be at last 15%, and that network connectivity is available to all municipal service areas.
Government has identified lack of infrastructure and high prices as impediments to wider adoption of broadband. But before it can set policy targets, it has to define what it means by broadband.
“Even within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the different sectors, in alignment with their functions, have different definitions for broadband,” the policy document reads. “The standardisation sector defines broadband as a speed of 1,5-2Mbit/s, while the development sector defines it as 256kbit/s.”
The policy document says SA will follow the guidelines set out by the ITU’s development sector. “As such, broadband will be interpreted as an always-available, multimedia-capable connection with a download speed of at least 256kbit/s.”
That means that basic third-generation cellphone services are considered to be broadband, as is Telkom’s entry-level digital subscriber line service, which provides access speeds of up to 384kbit/s.
The draft broadband policy, which must still be debated in parliament, proposes the establishment of a Broadband Inter-Governmental Implementation Committee, incorporating all spheres of government.
This committee will develop an implementation plan to support the broadband policy and prevent duplication of investment by advising national treasury on government investment in broadband infrastructure at national, provincial and local government levels. The policy document clarifies the roles of government, state-owned enterprises and the private sector.
The committee, which will report to the minister of communications, will be tasked with conducting a survey on the status of broadband in the country and the relevant market players in the industry.
Government says it will intervene directly in areas where it’s prohibitively expensive for private-sector players to provide broadband services.
“Various options for the construction, operation and maintenance of networks in under-serviced areas will be developed by the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA and implemented in co-operation with other stakeholders in their locations.” — Staff reporter, TechCentral
- Image credit: Declan Jewell