South Africa Backs Open Access Networks in Web Rollout Plan

  • Country seeks to boost internet access to citizens by 2030
  • Government gives backing to “open and shared networks”

South Africa’s cabinet approved a proposal backing “open and shared networks” in its attempt to provide all citizens with better access to internet services by 2030.

The policy is intended to increase competition between providers by allowing access to telecommunications infrastructure, the government press service said Sunday in an e-mail.

“The new policy environment of open and shared networks will enable competition to be focused at the service level, enabling multiple service providers to provide high quality and innovative products and services to South Africans at affordable rates,” the department said.

MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have spent billions of rand to build South Africa’s largest networks and gain a competitive advantage over rivals in the past 20 years. A policy of open access may mean they share this infrastructure with other carriers.

Radio frequencies for data transfer will also be subject to open access, according to the policy. Previously mobile spectrum has been assigned to individual carriers that pay for exclusive rights to use it.

“The new spectrum management regime set out in this policy encourages that licensees work together as far as it is practicable,” the government said.

Provider Collaboration

Vodacom is reviewing the paper, spokesman Byron Kennedy said by text message. Telkom “trusts that the policy will create regulatory certainty in the sector, promote effective competition and facilitate the attainment of universal access to affordable broadband services,” spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan said by e-mail. MTN spokeswoman Bridget Bhengu didn’t immediately comment on the proposal.

South Africa’s government allocated 2.5 billion rand ($182 million) to roll out broadband networks across the country over the next three years, Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele said last month. Providers such as Telkom, Vodafone and MTN should collaborate on rolling out infrastructure, he said.

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