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South Africa’s ICASA Gives Telecoms Operator 2025 Deadline to Connect 50% Public Institutions to Internet

South Africa’s ICASA Gives Telecoms Operator 2025 Deadline to Connect 50% Public Institutions to Internet

Fifty percent of public service institutions − such as schools, clinics, hospitals, libraries and traditional offices − are anticipated to be connected to the internet by 31 March 2025.

This, as part of the universal service obligations imposed on licensees by the telecoms regulator, following the licensing of high-demand spectrum in March 2022.

So says the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), following its engagement with the Friends of a Free Internet.

The meeting with the civic organisation took place on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on Friday, to discuss its demand for “government to expand affordable internet access to everyone in SA”.

As the authority regulating the telecoms, broadcasting and postal services sectors, ICASA says it seeks to enable universal affordable access for all South Africans.

The regulator revealed public service institutions are being connected by the licensees awarded spectrum through the 2022 auction.

In line with social responsibilities and obligations imposed on the telecoms operators, it was previously estimated that 18 520 schools, 5 731 clinics and hospitals, 8 241 traditional authority offices, and 949 libraries and Thusong Service Centres will be connected.

SA’s campaign for lower data costs can be traced back to 2016, when citizens took to social media to express their frustrations with local mobile operators, resulting in the #DataMustFall movement receiving widespread media attention and attracting Parliament’s notice.

Incumbent as well as past ministers in the communications department have called for reduction in the cost to communicate, said former minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

In addition, the Competition Commission (CompCom) data services market inquiry in December 2019 found the cost of data in SA was considerably higher than in many other countries. The CompCom recommended that telcos reduce data costs.

South African mobile operators contend they have made great strides in reducing the costs of mobile data since the last spectrum auction.

In 2022, ICASA’s prepaid tariff analysis report showed the telcos were heeding the call to reduce data prices, with a 500MB data bundle averaging between R65 and R69.

As part of the meeting with Friends of the Internet, ICASA highlights that licensees are actively deploying infrastructure and are on track to meet their coverage targets, utilising the full range of spectrum assigned to them via the auction. This timeline follows the successful completion of phase one of the broadcasting digital migration.

ICASA says it has now gazetted the application process through which non-profit organisations and government entities may apply to have their internet websites zero-rated. This framework is also expected to lower the barriers to internet access.

“ICASA has already issued the licensees concerned with amended licences, which include the above-mentioned obligations. Full details are set out in each licensee’s radiofrequency spectrum licence, which can be accessed through the ICASA library.

“ICASA is currently engaged in a stakeholder consultation process intended to provide more effectively for the roll-over and transfer of unused data and over-the-top bundles.”

“ICASA remains committed to enhancing universal affordable access to high-quality communication services for all who live in SA, and to addressing stakeholder concerns through ongoing dialogue, to regulating effectively in the public interest in line with our legislative and policy mandates,” comments ICASA chairperson Mothibi Ramusi.



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