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Forum aims to make SA Connect a reality

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The first of three collaborative discussion events on 15 July will bring together South Africa’s Internet providers, government and the regulator to find ways to bring about the ambitious South Africa Connect broadband roll-out goals.

The Internet provider industry, technology analysts, civic groups and Icasa, the national telecommunications regulator, have joined forces to address the desperate need to roll out better, faster and more affordable Internet access across South Africa. Launched in 2014 and hosted by the Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA), the Future Wireless Technologies Forum is a series of collaborative discussions, three of which are planned for 2015.

The first event of the year, to be held at the Neotel headquarters auditorium in Midrand, has a full agenda featuring representatives from Icasa as well as top industry experts representing various mediums including fibre, wireless, satellite, and WiFi

The South Africa Connect policy has a target of 90% of the population connected to the Internet at speeds of 5Mbps by 2020. These ambitious goals can only be achieved through concerted action by telecoms providers, government, and entrepreneurs to bring connectivity to the people by bridging the gaps between fixed and wireless networks, as well as between urban and rural networks.

Pakamile Pongwana, CEO of Icasa, comments: “Icasa wants to be part of a meaningful debate with all telecoms players. We need to make sure that we are asking the right questions in order to unlock the vast potential of broadband Internet access in South Africa. We are one hundred per cent behind this initiative by WAPA, and look forward to collaborating in this discussion over the next few years.”

The forum on 15 July will examine four critical areas:

* Where are we now, and where do we need to be in terms of infrastructure build to achieve SA Connect targets. This session will be presented by BMI-TechKnowledge, which will unveil highlights of recent research into this topic.

* Developing and delivering broadband business cases, with an emphasis on rural areas, and case studies of successful businesses that have been built in rural and underserviced areas.

* Which technologies are the most useful in what sorts of situations, and why.

* SA Connect does not exist in a vacuum; which other government initiatives at levels from national to municipal can help or hinder progress towards shared objectives.

WAPA deputy chairman Jens Langenhorst, sales manager at SES and founder of the Future Wireless Technologies Forum, says: “The Future Wireless Technologies Forum was created as a neutral platform to discuss and debate the issues and solutions which can enable better, faster and effective Internet access in our country.

“The events we had last year already changed how the independent wireless industry collaborates with government and the national regulator, as well as with the fixed line operators. The SA Connect vision provides goals which act as a framework for industry to come together to achieve, and the upcoming forum will provide insights into technical and commercial innovations and partnerships to enable this.”