The economic growth of South Africa and the certainty of the country's ICT policy and regulatory environment had increased the appetite of investors in the country's telecoms industry, says Communications Minister, Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburra.
Speaking during her department's Budget Vote on Tuesday, she said this was evidenced by the increased desire to invest in international cable capacity such as Infraco AWCC, the government-led cable, Seacom, EASSy and UHURUnet.
"Further evidence of this can be seen in the flurry of offers for our telecoms giants such as MTN and Telkom."
Dr Matsepe-Casaburra said the need for increased investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure had been highlighted by both government and business.
A lot of cables are being laid by operators in the country, especially around areas where there is very high demand by business.
Government also prioritised investment in submarine cables as part of the strategy to reduce the cost of communications.
"Because of the interest that had been shown by several companies to land cables on our shores specific guidelines were developed.
"In addition, we proposed that instead of getting companies to seek separate permits that will satisfy environmental as well as security concerns, these would be applied for at one point and coordinated by the department of communications working within the cluster system," the minister said.
Given that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism was in the middle of passing a Bill through parliament, it was not possible at that point to address environmental permits totally wording was left that proposed a separate application.
"This will however be addressed soon. Given the ICT data and network security imperatives facing us, this aspect, cannot be negotiable.
"The SAT 3 undersea cable will be upgraded thus, meeting our 2010 international cable capacity commitments," she said.
On the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) process, the minister said all was on track.
"The dates for the switch on of the digital signal and switch off of the analogue signal have been decided and announced as November 2008 and November 2011 respectively.
"BDM is likely to change our ICT landscape dramatically. New opportunities will be created at both lower and higher ends of skills and businesses.
"The public awareness has commenced and will be intensified in the coming months," said Dr Matsepe-Casaburri.
Last year, the minister spoke about establishing the Digital Dzonga, the office that would manage the implementation of the BDM Policy, as well as the appointment of its chairperson.
On Tuesday, she announced the appointments of members at the Digital Dzonga.
She further said that working with the Department of Trade and Industry, they were well advanced with developing the strategy to build a first-class Set Top Box manufacturing sector which will grow into an electronics manufacturing sector.
"I wish to take this opportunity to thank the current industry players for agreeing to be part of the development of this South African excellence in an inclusive and win-win manner that will see many new-comers into this and related sectors."
This will ensure that the set-top boxes, which will only be required when the analogue signal is switched off in 2011, will be manufactured in South Africa contributing to the creation of jobs.
A set-top box control system would be installed to protect South African design and manufacturing capability.
The control system will enable communication between the broadcasters and the public, and provide for e-government services which can become interactive in the future.
"This set top box control system will not be used to switch off viewers," the minister said. - BuaNews