R100 billion needed for SA broadband: Infraco

Broadband Infraco CEO, Puleng Kwele estimates that the South African government will need to set aside as much as R100 billion in order to meet its targets for broadband coverage.

The Department of Communications has committed to delivering 100% broadband penetration along with one million jobs by 2020.

Speaking at an event in Sandton on Thursday evening (18 July), Kwele said: “I think there is a will (to reach the 2020 target). If money is put on the table, I think we can get there.

“We could go the India route – cheap and quick – but we don’t want to do that. As a country we take ourselves seriously.”

Kwele welcomed the appointment of the new minister of communications Yunus Carrim. “With the new minister, we will be able to move quite quickly,” Kwele said optimistically.

State owned enterprise (SOE), Broadband Infraco has a mission to expand the availability and affordability of access to national and international wholesale broadband connectivity.

The group also has a mandate to ensure the availability of broadband connectivity and capacity requirements for specific projects of national interests are met. The group has already put just under 13,000 km of fibre into the ground.

When questioned how much it would take to meet the country’s broadband needs, Kwele jokingly asked how much Cell C had just received in the latest cash boost from its investors. “That might be a good start,” she said referring to an approximate allocation of R5.5 billion.

Kwele said that in the five years of its existence, Broadband Infraco had only received a total of R1.8 billion from government. “R1.8 billion is nothing, it’s a drop in the ocean in this industry,” she said.

“If government wants to be a player, it has got to be a player.”

Kwele noted that the DoC had mentioned a figure of R70 billion regarding its needs for infrastructure development in the ICT space. She added however, that it might not be enough. “Government needs to set aside R100 billion,” in order for us to do what we need to for broadband coverage,” Kwele said.

The chief executive said that with other countries in Africa surging ahead of SA in the ICT space, “perhaps we will catch a wake up”.

On the South African government website, it has pledged to accelerate broadband-infrastructure spending.

“In this regard, an initial R450 million has been allocated, over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period to provide broadband services,” it said.

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R100 billion needed for SA broadband: Infraco