SOUTH AFRICA – Telkom is close to reaching an agreement with the government to start a R750m first phase of broadband rollout, according to two people familiar with the matter.
There have been extensive discussions about the contract between Telkom, SA’s biggest landline provider, and the government, the company’s biggest shareholder with a 40% stake, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the contract is not finalised.
Telkom has carried out site inspections and studied how to implement the plan in eight districts, one of the people said.
Telkom cannot comment on a government project, the company said. The telecommunications ministry did not immediately return requests for comment.
Telkom shares pared declines to close 1.3% lower at R53 at the close in Johannesburg on Thursday, valuing the company at R27.9bn. The stock is down 18% this year.
The African National Congress has pledged to extend broadband access to every household by the end of this decade.
The proposal may cost as much as R98bn in total, Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele said last February.
SA is one of the world’s stragglers in internet access with just 3.21 fixed-line broadband subscribers per 100 people in 2014 compared with 11.46 in Brazil, 30.37 in the US and 29.31 in Japan, according to figures compiled by the World Bank.
The Democratic Alliance said that awarding the broadband contract to Telkom may be “legally dubious” as there has not been a transparent tender process.
“Telkom is not within government structures,” Marian Shinn, the shadow minister for telecommunications and postal services, said by text message.
“It is JSE-listed, not a state-owned company, and the government must deal with it as it does other companies in the sector.”
Vodacom Group, which has the most internet subscribers in SA, said it supported the government’s broadband rollout programme.
“Vodacom is committed to working with and partnering government and other stakeholders to ensure achievement of the country’s broadband goals,” spokesman Bongo Futuse said in e-mailed comments.