Trade and Industry

Monday, 01 December 2003

Extending Telecoms Ownership in South Africa: Policy, Performance and Future Options

  • Year: 2003
  • Author(s): James Hodge
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

The reform of the telecommunications sector in the mid-1990s had as one of its areas of focus an expansion of access to telecommunications - both at the household ownership and the broader access levels. This paper examines the performance of policies around ownership and suggests alternative options for the future. It finds that despite the large rollout programme in fixed line telecommunications, there has been only very limited gains for rural and low-income users. Almost all the gains in ownership have come from the adoption of cellular by these groups. The paper demonstrates that this is the rationale choice for most low-income consumers given the different tariff structures and the average monthly spend on communication. The paper suggests that any future use of universal service funds should be more technology-neutral, which would enhance the roll of cellular telecommunication in such plans.