State gears up for broadband

2008-12-08 13:26

Johannesburg - The state-owned telecommunications infrastructure company, Broadband Infraco, is staffing up, advertising for a number of key, Johannesburg-based positions in weekend media.

Broadband Infraco consists of the countrywide fibre-optic backbone network originally built by Eskom and Transnet for the second national operator (SNO) which became Neotel.

But, instead of Neotel owning this, government decided to retain the infrastructure and create a wholesale infrastructure provider from which any operator could buy.

Broadband Infraco describes its role as a "state-led intervention to rapidly normalise telecoms market efficiency by commoditising only those parts of infrastructure that impede private sector development and innovation in telecoms service and content offerings".

Neotel rents this capacity from Broadband Infraco for its backhaul network and manages the network on its behalf. Neotel has a four-year agreement with Broadband Infraco, until 2012.

The state-owned enterprise is also part of a west coast undersea cable project which, it seems, will come to fruition in the run-up to 2010.

Positions advertised in the Sunday Times over the weekend included an enterprise-wide risk management specialist, a project manager, procurement specialists, a PR & communications manager, as well as senior engineers for the network operations and international divisions, among others.

The international engineer, Broadband Infraco said, would be responsible for the planning, design and operation of an international submarine cable-based network.

Infraco, which was renamed Broadband Infraco to refine its mandate, was originally former minister of trade and industry Alec Erwin's baby. But, following the appointment of a cabinet under President Kgalema Motlanthe, it now falls under new Public Enterprises Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

When former president Thabo Mbeki gave his state of the nation speech in February, he cited the licensing and operationalisation of Broadband Infraco in 2008 as a key national priority.

The Broadband Infraco Bill was adopted in parliament in 2007, and signed into law on February 1 2008. Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri called for public comment on the licensing framework of Broadband Infraco at the end of October 2008. She said it should have both network (Electronic Communications Network Services) and service (Electronic Communications Services) licences, which are national in scope.