Modernised site approval policy crucial to fast track 4IR

Huawei Vice-President for Southern Africa, David Chen

Huawei Vice-President for Southern Africa, David Chen

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) INFORMATION and communications technology (ICT) experts believe a single, efficient policy for building telecommunications infrastructure is essential for South Africa to seize the opportunities of fifth-generation cellular network technology (5G) and the fourth industrial revolution.

This was the prevailing sentiment at the recent ‘Africa Meet Up 2019’, the passive infrastructure expo, organised by the TowerXchange in Johannesburg.

Delegates heard how an enabling environment is critical for the rapid deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

David Chen, Vice-President of Huawei Southern Africa, pointed out that 5G, which guarantees high speed, low latency and a massive number of connections, placed higher capacity demands on networks.

With sites likely to be closer together in the 5G era, site-approval processes must be simplified and optimised to facilitate rapid network build-out.

“These are the practical realities, as South Africa starts planning for the 4IR age and Gbps broadband speeds,” Chen said.

“Simplifying and standardising site-approval processes will fast track the arrival of 4IR.”

Experts said while the digital transformation of cities, states and countries began at the network site-development level, unfortunately, policies and regulations governing the construction of telecommunications infrastructure were often not aligned with the needs for tower construction.

Many restrictions on the construction of telecommunications infrastructure are viewed as out of pace with modern technology.

For example, distance restrictions between towers now range between 200m and 3 000m for different cities and countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Also, the process for approving site applications is often complex and time consuming, with some approvals taking two years or more.

Despite a drive to expedite telecommunications infrastructure development across in South Africa, obstacles remain.

Chen said an enabling environment for the rapid deployment of quality networks was essential for Africa to build a foundation of continuous, quality, broadband connectivity.

“National norms and standards for the construction of telecommunications infrastructure are critical to guide and streamline essential activities at local levels,” he said.

In South Africa, legislation like Section 21 of the Electronic Communication Act aims to accelerate broadband roll-out.

The National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper of 2016 for South Africa set a goal of reducing the time between application process and the actual deployment of infrastructure.

Sharoda Rapeti, Non-Executive Partner at Delta Partners Group, pointed out that an open site strategy would drive network deployment, boost network access, attract investors and enhance spectrum access.

“It is essential that governments begin aligning existing broadband policies and strategies at state, city and municipality levels. The process of gaining access to city-owned infrastructure for connectivity needs remained fraught with difficulties,” said Rapeti.

She said network connectivity and capacity requires collaboration between the city, regulator and government ministries, along with the private sector.

“Public-Private Partnerships are essential to bringing the benefits of broadband access to our people,” said the analyst.

– CAJ News

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