South Africa ‘considering national infrastructure company’, says official

South Africa is considering a plan to merge two state-owned operators, Broadband Infraco and Sentech, as a move towards a national infrastructure company.

Though details are sketchy at the moment, Robert Nkuna, director-general at the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, said in a speech on Tuesday that the government plans to consider a merger proposal in December.

“We don’t want a top-heavy company, but a company that has sharp capacity to aggregate what exists in South Africa so we don’t duplicate,” said Nkuna, as quoted by Reuters.

This seems to be a reversal of a plan a year ago by the South African government to privatise Broadband Infraco. Capacity reported in September 2016 that Vodacom and Dark Fibre Africa were both believed to be interested in bidding for Broadband Infraco.

Sentech is a broadcasting transmission company, hived off from the South African Broadcasting Company in the 1990s. It carries 90% of the country’s broadcasting signals.

South Africa has a long-term plan to create a national broadband network operator, along the lines of those in Australia and Singapore, but more oriented to carrying mobile services to masts.

According to Reuters, Nkuna told a parliamentary committee that the law would need to be amended to allow for the establishment of a national broadband network operator, with a target date of “around 2020”. It would not be a monopoly, he added.