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Sep 03, 2013

Broadband collaboration needs new approach

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Engineering|Africa|FibreCo Telecommunications|Southern Africa Telecommunications Networks|Africa|South Africa|Media-rich Platform|Service|Social Applications|Text Technologies|Infrastructure|Marius Mostert|Power|Southern Africa|Broadband|Text Technologies
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As broadband development comes full circle – with many of the aims of ten years ago already achieved – industry needed to re-examine a more effective collaboration structure, FibreCo Telecommunications chief technology officer Marius Mostert said on Tuesday.

With the themes of the Southern Africa Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (Satnac) over the past decade having instigated comprehensive discussions surrounding “broadband for all” and “digital inclusion” on several occasions, Mostert believed that these discussions were “preaching to the converted”.

Since 2002, the conference had covered issues relating to the digital divide and extending technology, engineering and applications, and communications, to “fuel the future”.

In 2005, convergence – and whether technology could deliver it – had been analysed, followed by next-generation service and network access as key enablers in 2006.

Technologies that deliver “any service, anywhere, at any time”, regulations and policies and a future society enabled by innovation and applications followed over the years, culminating in discussions around the power of social communication, universal broadband and the so-called “Internet of things” by 2012.

Broadband and digital inclusion emerged again during the 2013 Satnac, held in Stellenbosch this week.

“So why are we still talking about broadband and digital inclusion?” he questioned, when the country had moved from simple information-sharing platforms, to content-rich social applications, and evolved from simple voice and text technologies to media-rich platforms.

In the past decade, South Africa had also shifted from dial-up connections, to “always on” high-speed network connections.

“We have gone through this; we should be looking at this across the value chain, right from the person connected, to the devices [through to] the networks. We need to be more creative in [developing a] sustainable business model.

“We have advanced from a technological perspective; no doubt [a result] of what we have discussed at the conference over the past few years,” he mused, quipping that, “Everything we have been preaching at the conference [over the past ten years] has been addressed, so maybe we should preach to others”.

He recommended engaging leadership involved in the industry, including heads of business, the government, the regulator and policymakers, to advance future developments together and to coordinate efforts and enabling policies.

Collaboration was required to establish the required infrastructure to deliver broadband in underserved regions, as the task could not remain the responsibility of individual companies guided by purely economic principles.

“Common or shared infrastructure at all levels of the network is inevitable,” he said, adding that collaboration should occur without destroying market forces.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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