In a move aimed at creating a new state-owned digital infrastructure company, the South African government is planning to merge Broadband Infraco and Sentech.
Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams disclosed the government plans at a media conference in Pretoria on Thursday.
“The department is currently finalizing the business case and awaiting certification from the State Law Advisor and DPME with regards to repurposing SITA to create a state IT Company, as well as merging Sentech and Broadband Infraco (Infraco) to form the State Digital Infrastructure Company,” Ndabeni-Abrahams, said.
The plan to create another state-owned company from the existing fibre networks and infrastructure operated by state entities Broadband Infraco, Sentech, PRASA, Eskom, Sanral and Transnet were first revealed in parliament in 2017.
This was part of a government plan to connect South Africans to the internet through the project management of a yet-to-be-created state IT Infrastructure company.
To ensure the establishment and success of the new entity, Ndabeni-Abrahams the department is “engaging our counterparts to ensure that non-broadband state-owned enterprises that self-provide broadband, such as Sanral, Prasa, Eskom and Transnet, are prohibited from entering the commercial broadband market so as to avoid the state distorting a well-functioning, liberalised market”.
Broadband Infraco provides long-distance national and international connectivity to licensed private sector partners, a license-exempt project of national importance and to previously underserviced areas.
Sentech began as a technical division of the South African Broadcasting Corporation responsible for signal distribution services of the corporation. In 1992, the SABC corporatised the division as Sentech, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Corporation.
In 1996, the Sentech Act 63 of 1996 was amended, converting Sentech into a separate public company responsible for providing broadcasting signal distribution services as a ‘common carrier’ to licensed television and radio broadcasters.