Minister of communications, Dina Pule says she intends to issue a policy directive to regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) on transparent pricing of services including SMS, voice, and data.
In delivering the DoC Budget Vote Speech on Tuesday (21 May), the minister said she aims to ensure market pricing transparency for the benefit of South African consumers.
“We remain firm to our commitment of lowering the cost to communicate in pursuance of affordable prices for mobile, fixed and broadband services.”
“The lowering of the Mobile Termination Rates from R1.25 a minute in 2010 to R0.40 from March this year represents a significant milestone in reducing the cost to communicate,” Pule said.
The minister said that the theme for the 2013 budget vote was “Connecting South Africans”.
On the topic of job creation, Pule said that the DoC continues to monitor sector-wide job creation in line with the National Development Plan.
“The ICT sector has created more than 37,000 jobs since 2010. It also contributes an estimated 8% to the national economy,” she said.
ICT Policy review
The Department’s Strategic Plan prioritises the ICT Policy Review, broadband and digital migration.
According to Pule, the DoC has embarked on a process to overhaul existing policies.
“We convened a successful policy colloquium that led to the establishment of the ICT Policy Review Panel. The composition of the ICT Policy Review Panel reflects the government’s mantra of working together, we can do more.”
“We plan to deliver the White Paper on ICT Policy next year. On 25 April 2013 we launched the ICT Policy Framing Paper,” she said.
In December 2012, the DoC launched the Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) 15, which is focused on increasing access to ICT services through the rollout of broadband infrastructure and Digital Terrestrial Television.
“There has been commendable progress in the work of SIP 15. As chairperson of SIP 15, I am finalising a project action plan which indicates targets for the connectivity of public facilities such schools, health centres, government offices, libraries and police stations,” Pule said.
The minister said that Telkom remains integral to the state’s broadband ambitions of modernizing and investing in its long distance backbone network.
On broadband, the DoC said that earlier in May, it closed the public consultation phase on the New Broadband Policy.
“We are preparing to take this policy to Cabinet in June 2013. The finalisation of this policy will pave the way for Icasa to licence the much sought after 2.6 Gigahertz and 800 Megahertz spectrum, including the extended digital dividend,” Pule said.
“By doing this, we will be increasing network capacity, improving coverage, promoting competition and facilitating black economic empowerment.”
“Let me remind the house that our Radio Frequency Spectrum policy, adopted in 2010, encourages the efficient use of spectrum resources by employing technologies that use spectrum more efficiently,” the minister said.
In the course of the year, the DoC will introduce four legislative amendments.
Icasa’s Amendment Bill deals with the definition of broadband, empowers Icasa to enforce compliance and monitor radio frequency spectrum resources and postal regulation.
“We are closely monitoring Icasa to ensure that it is able to perform its key role as a regulator. Part of this exercise will include strengthening governance measures and making sure that the regulator is able to effectively collect and account for revenues due,” the minister said.
On the matter of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), the DoC said that the digital broadcasting network currently reaches more than 80% of the population.
“We have also finalised the subsidy plan for poor households supported by qualifying criteria. We are ready to implement the Set-Top Box (STB) manufacturing strategy which requires 30% local content as part of the electronic industry development,” Pule said.
Icasa has finalised the broadcasting regulations, the minister said. “I will shortly be releasing a notice in the Government Gazette setting the performance period for digital migration switch on.
“In June 2013, we shall launch the STB compliance lab in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry and the SA Bureau of Standards.
“We have taken a decision to review the policy on the STB control system as one way of fast tracking the rollout of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) to make this system non-mandatory,” Pule said.
The DTT transmission network roll out target of 84% population coverage via terrestrial transmitters will be reached by December 2013.
Sentech will also launch a Direct-To-Home satellite broadcasting service later this year, Pule said.
This service will provide TV and radio coverage to the Square Kilometre Array and all other areas where there is no DTT signal.
With regards to DTT Awareness, “we shall intensify the implementation of our communications campaigns to inform and educate the public about the need for DTT,” Pule said.
“I am happy to report to this house that Sentech is in a healthy state, not only in terms of service delivery imperatives but also financially. This can be attributed to the turnaround efforts that we have put in place since 2009,” the minister said.