CEOs to work with govt to roll out fibre in rural areas

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

By Mish Molakeng

Chief Executive Officers in the telecommunications industry have made a commitment to work with government to roll out fibre in rural communities and connect communities to the internet grid.

This as Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and sector CEOs signed the Industry Stakeholder Principles of Excellence. The pact was signed at the Fibre Optic Conference in Sandton, Johannesburg on Tuesday. 

Working with government and other stakeholders, the industry leaders have committed to, among other things, strive to achieve digital inclusion, ongoing investment and contribution to job creation as well as ethics in doing business.

“We envisage that sector collaboration will significantly reduce the time to deploy broadband infrastructure and services while minimising duplication of infrastructure. We also believe that the industry will play an integral role in assisting government to realise its policy aspiration of increasing broadband speed from 10mbps to 100mbps,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Fibre forms one of the key pillars which will establish the next generation of connectivity and is a critical enabler for the 4IR.

“Today we know that fibre is potentially the most critical component of all telecommunications infrastructure. We have come to realise that without fibre we will not enter the 5G race,” said the Minister.

Andile Ngcaba, President of the FTTX Council Africa, said they were looking forward to working with government in deploying fibre to rural communities  

All over the continent people are looking to broadband as a means of income. Technology is fast reshaping the world and it has the potential to change everything, people, business, community and the nation.

The Minister said: “Our job as leaders is to respond to ensure that we make digital transformation a reality. This is an important task and as industry we must find ways of making this happen and this includes our capacity to work together to identify opportunities in the transition we must make. 

“This industry has the potential to aid in the economic growth, dynamism and ingenuity Africa needs. A key part of the solution is staring us right in the face—unleashing the economic power of the digital world.”

The department has established a virtual Rapid Deployment Coordination Centre (RDCC) with the objective of coordinating and ultimately accelerating the infrastructure deployment process to enable sustainable and environmentally sound deployment of critical broadband infrastructure and to ensure rapid deployment of ICT infrastructure to support government programs.

Ndabeni- Abrahams said the Deployment Coordination Centre will work in collaboration with that of telecommunications sector initiatives.

“As government, our role in all of these exciting trends is that of an enabler; from a policy, legislative and regulatory perspective. With these instruments we seek to coordinate and facilitate an inclusive growth that benefits all the masses of our people.

“To this end, it gives me great pleasure to advise you that the department has made significant progress in its aims to support industry in achieving its goals,” the Minister said.

The 4IR heralds significant social, political, cultural, and economic upheavals that are occurring at an unprecedented pace.

“How we engage with the 4IR technologies is therefore paramount and as leaders in the industry, we have the unique opportunity and responsibility to give it structure and purpose.”

Therefore connecting municipalities to the internet remains a priority for government.

Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa established the Presidential Commission on the 4IR, which is mandated to advise government on 4IR policies, develop a framework for implementation of a multi-sectoral 4IR strategy; and coordinate, monitor and evaluate multi-sectoral initiatives that will position South Africa as a globally competitive player in 4IR.

The Minister said she was pleased to note that a number of sector leaders have heeded the call to serve as commissioners or are participating in the technical workstreams in the Presidential Commission on the 4IR.

The Fibre Optic Conference brought together over 1000 industry leaders across the continent to explore the world of fibre and 5G, as well as the impact on the industry and the opportunities it holds for Africa. –