The South African government wants to ensure that every home in South Africa has 50GB of data per month by the 2025/6 financial year.
This is according to the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 recently published by public works minister Patricia de Lille.
“Government e-enablement will be leveraged to promote a digital society and universal connectivity,” the plan stated.
“High-speed broadband will be available and accessible in all communities by 2024/5, achieving access comparable to competitor nations.”
In addition to the medium-term goal of giving every household access to 50GB of data per month, the government has set a short-term target of 10GB of data by 2023/4.
“There will be consideration of free basic data for low-income users, similar to such access to water and electricity,” the National Infrastructure Plan said.
This aligns with communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s remarks during her State of the Nation debate speech.
However, Ntshavheni clarified that the data would not be limited to needy households. Data would be given to all families regardless of income, she said.
Government has not yet detailed how households will receive their free data.
In written responses to parliamentary questions earlier this year, Ntshavheni said her department had requested money for a broadband fund from the National Treasury.
“Funding has been requested from the National Treasury to establish the Broadband Fund with the objective to subsidise household connectivity and public Wi-Fi hotspots in low-income households and rural communities nationally,” Ntshavheni stated.
The National Infrastructure Plan also mentions the broadband fund, suggesting that government would pursue partnerships with private companies to enable it.
“Arrangements required to enable private participation in public interest digital delivery will be in place by 2022/3,” the plan stated.
“Most immediately, this will include special vehicles to promote blended finance and procurement rules that enable long-term partnerships such as the proposed Broadband Fund.”
Techunzipped recently contacted South Africa’s mobile network operators regarding government’s goal of providing 10GB of free data per month to each household.
Cell C chief legal officer Zahir Williams described it as an “unexpected announcement”.
“There is normally prior industry consultation with affected stakeholders and interested parties pertaining to policy, legislative and regulatory processes before significant initiatives are implemented,” Williams stated.
“We will, therefore, await commencement of the necessary stakeholder consultations and be guided accordingly.”
Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Rain did not provide feedback by the time of publication or declined to comment, as they are preoccupied with the ongoing spectrum auction.