This change will impact everyone with a mobile phone in South Africa: Ramaphosa

The auction of high-demand spectrum for mobile telecommunications is an important step for the country’s reform agenda, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.

Writing in his weekly letter to the public, Ramaphosa said the new spectrum will come with agreed social obligations to connect public schools, healthcare facilities and police stations over the next three years.

“Like the mineral wealth that lies beneath our soil, the radio spectrum is a valuable national resource that must be used for the benefit of all South Africans,” he said.

Cheaper data

As part of its data services market investigation in December 2019, the Competition Commission found that the cost of data in South Africa was significantly higher than in many other countries, the chairman said.

“Freeing up spectrum is expected to reduce the cost of mobile data, extend network reach to rural and outlying areas, and improve network quality.

“Every South African who uses a mobile device will feel the benefits of this reform, especially the poor and those who currently do not have access to the internet due to high costs or lack of coverage.”

Expanding digital access is essential for economic growth, the president said.

He added that cheaper data means young people will have better access to digital platforms to seek job opportunities online. Students will be able to access information and educational materials, while entrepreneurs will be able to start businesses and reach new markets, he said.

“Similarly, the availability of this spectrum will contribute to economic transformation. This will enable many more people, especially those in remote areas and poor communities, to access digital resources and improve their ability to participate in economic activity.

“The use of this spectrum will also enable the deployment of 5G networks. These 5G networks will accelerate the process towards universal connectivity – where all South Africans are connected – and the deployment of digital technologies and services that are driving the fourth industrial revolution.

“This is a crucial step in bringing South Africa back to the forefront of digital technology and ensuring our economy remains competitive.”

Reforms

Ramaphosa said the spectrum auction is also an important achievement for the country’s reform agenda.

“It was delayed for many years due to the political drift, state incapacity and vested interests that were a feature of the era of state capture. The fact that we now have Completing this process reflects this administration’s determination to undertake – and accelerate – the far-reaching reforms that our economy needs to grow and create jobs.

He added that spectrum auctioning is one of the priority reforms included in Operation Vulindlela, which works with ministries to accelerate the implementation of important reforms to support economic growth.

“We are determined that South Africa will not be left behind by the digital economy, just as we are determined that no community and no one will be left behind in experiencing the vast benefits of ‘to be digitally connected to the world.’


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