The Internet Service Providers Association of South Africa (ISPA) has released a statement backing state-owned cable operator Broadband Infraco to break Telkom’s stranglehold over national infrastructure, mybroadband.co.za reports. According to ISPA, the award of an individual-electronic communications network services (I-ECNS) licence from state regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), along with its extensive fibre network which Broadband Infraco inherited from Transtel and Eskom, will allow the operator to realise its mandate of boosting the country’s broadband connectivity and bandwidth availability while lowering the cost of communications nationwide. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the crippling cost of bandwidth has held back the South African data market, leaving Africa’s largest economy with a broadband penetration of just 2% at the end of September 2009.
In a press statement, ISPA said: ‘Broadband Infraco, provided it sticks to its mandate as a supplier of wholesale infrastructure to other operators and service providers, could redress this problem and help to spur greater competition in the market. At the same time, given the history of state-owned enterprises in the telecoms industry, ISPA will keep a vigilant eye on Broadband Infraco’s activities to make sure that South Africa derives the maximum benefit from its activities… We believe that it is of great importance to ensure that this promising new venture does not eventually evolve into a partially privatised company with a profit motive and unfair advantages that competes against the private sector. Given the challenges facing the South African telecoms industry, we simply cannot afford to get this wrong.’