Draft Electronic Communications Amendment Bill
Public hearings will be held in Pretoria on 6 and 7 March at the Lombardy Boutique Hotel in Pretoria.
Notice of public hearings | Telecoms workshop expected to be fiery affair | Government’s mobile plan a recipe for disaster |
Crunch time for SA’s telecoms sector
South Africa Connect National Broadband Network
The plan to connect government offices through a fibre “national broadband network” which would be leveraged to provide public Wi-Fi services – first announced in 2013 – has been admitted to the critical care ward with a grim prognosis.
The Estimate of National Expenditure (ENE) for the DTPS shows that the department’s total budget is expected to decrease over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, from R5.2 billion in 2017/18 to R1.1 billion in 2020/21. This is due in part to Cabinet-approved budget reductions over the medium term of R1.7 billion to the South Africa Connect broadband project.
The inability of the DTPS to implement phase 1 – to provide connectivity to 2 800 of 5 803 identified government institutions by March 2017 – since budget was first provided in 2014, makes it an easy target for austerity cuts. The target has now been revised to 795 facilities before end March 2021, to be achieved as follows:
Number of identified government institutions connected as part of the national broadband plan: digital development (phase 1) per year• 2017/18 – 100 sites (not clear whether done or still to be done)
- 2018/19 – 0 sites
- 2019/20 – 750 sites
- 2020/21 – 45 sites
Phase 2 – which would cover the connection of all other government institutions nationwide – is presumably indefinitely delayed. The Department’s self-imposed deadline of end March 2018 for issuing a request for proposals on phase 2 will be missed.
Vote 32 Telecommunications and Postal Services | Budget: Cabinet trims SAConnect budget | Budget: State-owned ICT companies by 2020
Details relating to the roll-out of broadband and public Wi-Fi in the Western Cape were released during the State of the Province Address and ensuing debate. The original target of 2 000 local government sites announced in 2014 was reduced to 1 875, all of which have now been connected by Liquid Telecom. It is estimated that 50% of the targeted 100Mbps
line speed upgrades will be achieved by June 2019. To date 178 of 384 planned Wi-Fi hotspots have been rolled out, with the Premier of the province indicating that it now wants to make around 1 600 hotspots available as and when site connections are upgraded. Hotspots provide residents with 250MB of free data per month, access to a digital literacy course and all government websites. Interestingly, the Western Cape plans to compete directly with mobile network and other data providers with the Premier challenging the mobile operators “to try and match the data rates we are providing to citizens of the Western Cape”.
Western Cape free Wi-Fi and 1Gbps fibre project update |
Expect more free WiFi sites in WCape
Universal Service and Access Obligations
ICASA has invited the public to comment on an application filed by Telkom on 16 November 2017 for the amendment of its Universal Service and Access Obligations (“USAOs”). ICASA commenced with the review of USAOs of licensees in 2008/09, with the intention of amending the obligations taking into account the changed circumstances in the market.
Written comments must be submitted by 26 March 2018, marked for the attention of Moyeni Nkosinkulu: USAO Project Leader, email: email@example.com. Telkom shall be entitled to respond in writing to written representations made by interested persons in response to ICASA’s notice. Telkom’s application highlights the fact that ICASA amended the USAOs applicable to MTN, Vodacom and Cell in 2014 but failed to effect any amendments to Telkom’s licences.
Telkom Amendments of USAOs Feb 2018
Consumer Advisory Panel
The Consumer Advisory Panel will be (re)launched at the Capital Moloko Hotel in Sandton on 9 March, with registration commencing at 09h00. The function of this body is to advise ICASA’s Council on consumer matters which it should be prioritising and/or researching. A previous incarnation of the Panel was effectively marginalised by ICASA due to perceptions it had too much independent power.
According to the Estimate of National Expenditure for the Department of Communications, ICASA expects to derive 93.9 per cent of its revenue over the medium term through transfers from the Department and 6.1 per cent from licence fees. Revenue is expected to increase from R457.4 million in 2017/18 to R518.4 million in 2020/21, at an average annual rate of 4.3 per cent. This is a slightly slower rate of increase than for the period 2014-2017. Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Services Office (CLSO) addressed the Communications Portfolio Committee on the legal opinion relating to the criminal conviction of the Chairperson of ICASA on fraud charges on 27 February 2018. The Committee thereafter resolved to relieve the Chairperson of his position due to the clear prohibition in the ICASA Act on those with convictions for criminal offences relating to honesty serving on ICASA’s Council.
Parliament to fire Icasa chairman Rubben Mohlaloga
Department of Communications
There are some new personnel over at the Department of Communications, with Nomvula Mokonyane replacing Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane as Minister and Pinkie Kekana replacing Tandi Mahambehlala as Deputy Minister. With rumour running rife that the split between this Department and DTPS will be reversed, this may be a soft landing on the way to future unemployment. The Estimate of National Expenditure for the Department reveals that:
- The number of staff is expected to increase by 22 over the medium term, mainly to
provide capacity for the digital terrestrial television project, the implementation of
communications policies such as the media transformation and diversity policy and
the audio-visual and digital content policy.
- Cabinet has approved budget reductions of R36.3 million in 2018/19, R53.5 million in 2019/20 and R57.1 million in 2020/21, particularly on transfers to public
Estimate of National Expenditure for the Department for the period 2018/19 – 2020/21
ICASA will be holding public hearings in respect of the Draft Number Portability Regulations on 12 March 2018 at its head office in Sandton.
Schedule – Draft Number Portability Public Hearings
Cost to Communicate – Data Services
The Minister of Economic Development noted that there will be a focus in the next 12 months on bringing down the cost of data through the competition market inquiry into data services; expansion of infrastructure through finalising release of new spectrum; completion of digital migration and finalisation of key policies, including one relating to entry of cross-border e-commerce into South Africa. The Minister indicated that Parliament would be briefed on the work being undertaken on the implications of the 4th industrial revolution.
Minister Ebrahim Patel: Debate on State of the Nation Address | High mobile data prices – Operators respond
Cost to Communicate – Data bundle validity periods
ICASA held hearings on draft amendments to its End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations intended to protect consumers from predatory practices relating to data bundle validity periods and out-of-bundle (OOB) charges.
The National Consumer Commission’s unequivocal position is that all prepaid vouchers should remain valid for a period of three years. The Commission accepted, however, that it would need to seek clarity from the High Court before it could impose this requirement given the opposing legal interpretations of section 63 of the Consumer Protection Act proffered by some in industry.
All data bundles must be valid for at least 3 years – National Consumer Commission | Good Idea – Opt out of OOB data, Bad Idea – Data that lasts 3 years | People want out-of-bundle data – MTN | Blocking out-of-bundle data usage is unlawful – Vodacom