Government will soon provide 10GB of free data to every household — here’s how it’ll work

17 February 2022 - 11:05
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni says government will provide 10GB of free data to every South African household.
Image: Freddy Mavunda Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni says government will provide 10GB of free data to every South African household.

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has promised that the government will provide 10GB of free data per month to every SA household.

In her speech during the state of the nation address (Sona) debate, Ntshavheni revealed that a major free data rollout is on the cards.

According to Ntshavheni, allocation of mobile data will be similar to the allocation of basic municipal water and electricity services. 

Currently, indigent households qualify for a free 6,000 litres of water, free 50kWh of electricity, and free sewerage and sanitation.

How will the allocation be done? 

Ntshavheni said the 10GB basic data allocation will be given to all households regardless of income.

“Data has become a new utility like water and electricity that our home needs,” she said. 

“At some point, SA households — despite whether you are rich or poor, whether you are employed or unemployed — will have access to 10GB per month without failure because that’s what this government will deliver.”

Ntshavheni did not provide timelines for the rollout of the basic data service.

Will the cost of data be reduced? 

Ntshavheni said the emergency release of the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa) spectrum will yield positive benefits such as reduced data costs and voice communication. 

“This spectrum is expected to unlock economic transformation not only for the telecommunications sector but to service other industries such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing.

“We expect industry growth of between R4bn and R6bn in 2023. We are also working on a radio frequency spectrum policy for embedding the 5G network and preparations for advances to sixth- and seventh-generation networks,” she said. 

Which networks will be bidding on the spectrum?

She said six network operators, including Cell C, MTN, Vodacom and Telkom, will be bidding on the spectrum. 

The six operators will be required to provide connectivity to more than 18,000 schools, 5,000 clinics and hospitals, and over 8,000 offices of traditional leaders or traditional authorities that hold certificates of recognition.

“The extension of broadband to traditional authorities is part of government’s commitment to strengthen the role of traditional leaders as service delivery centres of government,” said Ntshavheni. 

“In the past, we have seen the telecommunications operators ignoring social obligations and opting to pay negligible penalties instead of connecting our people.

“This time , Icasa will include the fulfilment of service obligations as part of the licensing conditions without an option of a penalty.”