South Africans are no closer to getting low-cost international broadband connectivity, with the Infraco project running into problems just a day after the Seacom cable was called into doubt.
Infraco, recently created by the Department of Public Enterprises, is supposed to provide South African users with low-cost broadband access.
Earlier this month, it asked Parliament to allow it to be "deemed" to be a licensed telecommunications provider, thus saving it the time it would take to go through the normal ICASA channels.
However, this would be in contravention of the Electronic Communications (EC) Act and yesterday an amendment to the EC Act was proposed to allow Infraco – and other state-owned enterprises – to be granted a licence.
However, the time it will take to amend the act could hamstring second network operator Neotel, which needs to access the broadband fibre optic networks from Eskom and Transtel that were handed over to Infraco.
A parliamentary portfolio committee yesterday also raised concerns about an exclusivity agreement that Neotel has regarding those networks – which was agreed because Neotel was supposed to get the infrastructure in the first place.
The delay in gaining a licence could also impact on Infraco's plans to lay a submarine cable along the west coast of Africa to help increase bandwidth while reducing its cost.
The Infraco news follows Tuesday's reports that the Department of Communications (DoC) may deny Neotel landing rights to the Seacom submarine cable.
Seacom is ready to start laying cable along the east coast of Africa as early as September and could provide cheaper broadband by 2009.
It has signed an agreement with Neotel to land the cable in South Africa, but the DoC now wants to see South African ownership in Seacom itself before allowing this to go ahead.
The DoC has plans for its own east African submarine cable, in conjunction with Nepad, but so far no details or firm plans have been revealed.