Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says that, while the national broadband policy is under revision, additional funding for enhanced broadband connectivity will only be allocated once a policy framework is agreed.
In delivering his 2013/14 budget speech in the National Assembly, Gordhan said that expenditure on transport, energy and communications would amount to R89 billion in the coming financial year with SOE Sentech receiving R599 million over the medium term for the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
Additional plans would see two telecommunications investments amounting to R14 billion, Gordhan said.
The budget went on to highlight two projects within the telecoms sector, including Sentech’s task to facilitate South Africa’s digital migration to digital television, with R2.7 billion already allocated to that project, and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project with an allocation of R16 billion.
The minister also noted that “mega-projects” within the telecommunications sector were under consideration for the period 2013 – 2023, amounting to R36 billion. Twelve of these projects were under the concept phase.
Speaking under the banner of telecommunications, Gordhan said that ICT is a critical enabler of economic activity.
“The 2011 Census results show that 64.8% of households do not have access to the internet, and that most of those with access are reliant on cellphone connections.”
“Access to internet is still hampered by relatively high costs and undersupply of broadband infrastructure across the country. An improved regulatory environment would allow for expanded access and lower costs across the sector,” he stressed.
He noted that while the increase in broadband capacity means that user charges have fallen somewhat, it remains high by global standards.
“Public-sector investments by Broadband Infraco and Sentech are currently focused on service provision in rural areas and institutions such as schools, libraries and clinics. Cape Town, eThekwini and Johannesburg have also been investing in their own urban networks.
“The national broadband policy is currently being revised. Over the MTEF (medium-term expenditure framework) period, additional funding for enhanced broadband connectivity will be allocated once a policy framework is agreed,” Gordhan said.
Government has for some time highlighted its plan is to achieve 100% broadband internet penetration by 2020.