June 7, 2012
WAPA strongly welcomes the keynote address delivered by the Minister of Communications at the ICT Indaba this week, in which she highlighted the importance of working with “big and small” ISPs and recognised their need for spectrum assignment “where it was needed most”:
“World Wide Worx has also reported that over six million South Africans have access to internet. This represents significant progress. In 2010 the broadband subscriber base increased by 50%.
Much of this growth can be attributed to an impressive increase in the number of mobile broadband customers using smartphones. Mobile broadband grew by 31% in 2011 to reach 4.2 million people in the country.
We are however concerned that the broadband prices remain very high based on purchasing power parity in comparison with some OECD countries such as Mexico, Chile and Hungary.
We are taking steps to address this challenge by introducing more competition in the data market.
Through the licensing process which we have embarked upon, we expect to identify capable Internet Service Providers (ISP) who will make use of the radio frequency spectrum to push the prices lower. These ISPs, big and small, are also expected to offer affordable broadband services to poor South Africans and the people living in rural areas.”
“We have been highlighting for many years the crucial role our ISP members play in delivering quality, affordable broadband to all,” says WAPA Chairperson Christopher Geerdts, “but recently we have found a real openness that is encouraging. If we could build on this partnership and gain access to important spectrum, the combined impact of our members would increase exponentially”.
This statement was in reference to WAPA’s recent census, which shows that its 125 members are providing 6 000 hotspots, employing 1 000 people and serving one million end users, including rural schools and clinics. This is currently being achieved through the innovative use of extremely limited spectrum access.
Geerdts added that WAPA’s members were excited about the policy review initiated by the Minister and looked forward to working with the Department of Communications to realise its vision.