Government has announced that SA Connect – the plan to provide internet connectivity to all by 2020 – will kick off next April when a tender for the first phase is issued by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

The launch of SA Connect is a positive step towards improving infrastructure to support the further deployment of eHealth systems across the country.

Government has set aside R994 million for the initial phase of the project, which will eventually see a national network being rolled out with speeds of up to 100Mbps.

According to a National Treasury official, the tender process will involve an open bid, with the most competitive service provider being selected to roll out the initial phase, which aims to cover government buildings, such as hospitals, police stations and schools across 10 districts – a total of about 34,000 sites. However, the project will be rolled out incrementally as funds become available.

According to the official the April tender will initially look at speeds of about 5Mbps before migrating to up to 10Mbps, and pricing will depend on the location.

The national WiFi project has already started in the Western Cape and Gauteng, which are currently funding their own networks.

Gauteng’s R2 billion network, which has been in the works for several years, kicked off in February with the award of a tender to Altech, a subsidiary of JSE-listed Altron. Gauteng’s network, which will be handed over to the province in five years’ time, will incorporate 1,600km of high-speed fibre-optics and will consist of an initial eight core locations, no greater than 80km from the next core location, which will be connected by a 10GB “protection ring”.

Provincial buildings will be connected to each other by 1GB protection rings and through dual 1GB connections to one of the core locations. Each core node will host 10 rings made up of 10 buildings in a ring. Ancillary services such as e-learning will be facilitated later.

The official concluded by saying the full Digital Development Plan – the infrastructure pillar of SA Connect – is due to be published next year.

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