Cape Town - Partnerships between private firms and government are key to bridging the broadband connectivity divide in South Africa, says an industry insider.
"We believe private enterprise plays an important role to develop fibre and broadband infrastructure in economically viable suburbs," Niel Schoeman, CEO Vumatel told Fin24.
The company is building a last-mile fibre broadband network that is aimed at relatively wealthy suburbs.
"By doing this, private equity is used to competitively and efficiently address such markets that can financially support major scale infrastructure roll-out. This reduces the capital required by Government to serve underserved areas," Schoeman added.
But it doesn't mean that poorer neighbourhoods are being thrown under the bus. Schoeman believes that by servicing wealthier areas, it frees up public resources to roll out resources to poorer areas.
South Africa's broadband divide
"The connectivity gap in South Africa is too large for Government to address on its own and will take years to address," Schoeman said.
The former department of communications, then led by Dina Pule, said that the current state of broadband deployment was of concern.
"Icasa has conducted a study to determine the 'Under-serviced Areas', using a criteria developed specifically for this function. The study identified a number of under-serviced areas throughout the country, and these are areas where national government intervention is critical," a 2013-2018 communications strategy document has previously read.
The Western Cape Provincial Government is pushing forward with a public Wi-Fi service that forms part of the province's R1.3bn broadband plan to make the internet accessible.
"Each Wi-Fi network is capped and users will only be able to access a certain amount of free data. In Eden the daily cap is 150MB per device per day. In Robertson and Atlantis it is 250MB per device per day," MEC for Economic Opportunities Alan Winde has previously told Fin24.
The City of Tshwane leads the country with an ambitious universal Wi-Fi programme that should see people who had previously had no internet connection access to the web.
"Tshwane has made history by becoming the first metro to roll out free Wi-Fi and indeed our announcement of the provision of this service was made before the City of New York's announcement - this is indeed a ground-breaking achievement for an African city," Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said in his State of the Capital City Address.
While mobile broadband will no doubt spur development of internet services in SA, demand is high and expected to eclipse cable connections.
According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile broadband users will grow exponentially between 2014 and 2018, far eclipsing ADSL users.
"From 2013 to 2018, Cisco anticipates that mobile traffic growth will be double fixed traffic growth in South Africa and that there will be 40 million mobile users by 2018, up from 38 million in 2013," the company said.
The Vuma network will be offered to consumers via third parties and projects costs start at R399 for a 4mbps line, up to R1 299 for a 50mbps package.
There is also a once-off fee of R1 500 for installation and R999 for connection.
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