Briefing by Sentech; Committee business plan and Annual Report: adoption

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Meeting report

AGRICULTURE AND LAND AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 November 2004
SENTECH BRIEFING; COMMITTEE BUSINESS PLAN AND ANNUAL REPORT: ADOPTION



Chairperson: Mr N Masithela (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Committee Annual Report
Committee Business Plan 2004-2008
Committee Budget Listing
 

Sentech PowerPoint presentation

SUMMARY
Sentech briefed the Committee on its satellite service that would make communication mediums more accessible to isolated areas, farmers and their workers. The Committee committed to investigating this option further. The Committee then discussed and adopted its Annual Report and Business Plan.

MINUTES
The Chairperson explained that the Committee's provincial visits had highlighted the need for access to communication in the rural and farming areas. The Committee had invited Sentech to brief the Committee on how it could assist these areas.

Sentech briefing
Mr P Nagan (Sentech General Manager: Marketing and Sales) explained the background and operational services of Sentech, briefly discussing Sentech's six different service platforms. He specifically discussed the use of Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT). VSATs could provide bi-directional communications with satellites, making them operational anywhere in South Africa. As it used satellite technology, VSATs were distance insensitive and could supply bandwidth on demand. While the capital outlay was high, VSAT access had a fixed monthly cost regardless of usage. He also talked briefly about the launch of MyWireless and the Fixed Wireless Services.


Discussion
The Chairperson reinforced the need to help farmers and farm workers as this would ensure the economic development of the sector. The installation of satellite dishes would help the market and the security of farming communities.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) asked if Sentech could help areas where there was no infrastructure of any sort.

Dr E Schoeman (ANC) asked if the cost of VSAT would be prohibitive and if Sentech had a plan to make its services more broadly accessible. He requested written literature about the VSAT for the Committee to study.

The Chairperson enquired about the radius of VSAT.

Mr T Ramphele (ANC) wanted clarity on the different fixed costs of MyWireless and VSAT and the technical ability needed to use VSAT. He asked how interactive these mediums were.

Mr M Nchabeleng (Sentech Government Relations Specialist) explained that VSAT was distance insensitive and that the most remote areas could be accessed.

Mr Nagan explained that VSAT cost R17 000 per site, but that Sentech made it affordable through monthly payments. The state had subsidised the capital outlay for a school in the Gauteng-Online project, and that school was paying a monthly fee of R500 to R600. VSAT covered all of South Africa and that its capacity per link was a maximum of a 2MB upload and 6MB download.

Mr Nchabeleng explained that all of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) states, and even countries as far as Nigeria, were under satellite coverage.

The Chairperson asked how many VSATs would need to be installed to make a rural farming community accessible.

Mr Ramphele asked where Sentech would propose the VSAT be set up to give the most people access.

Mr Nagan explained that the satellite sent information directly to the dish and the VSAT box. Other technology would have to be used to distribute the information, such as cable or wireless technology. In Limpopo, a container had been used as VSAT site. Computers and other technology had been installed in the container, which was available for public use. The only disadvantage of this system was that each user would not have access on their personal premises. MyWireless was cheaper than VSAT as its equipment was less expensive. In contrast, VSAT was more powerful and could be used anywhere in South Africa. MyWireless could only be used in urban areas were there were signal towers.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would facilitate discussions with Sentech to find out the financial and general viability of installing VSAT in farming communities. He proposed a meeting in February with all the relevant agricultural stakeholders to discuss the proposals further.

Mr Dlali commented that it was important to remember that different spheres of government would be involved, and that local government would play an important role.

Committee Annual Report and Business Plan
The Committee unanimously adopted its Annual Report without discussion.

Regarding the Business Plan, the Committee amended the Core Objective Five to include petitions referred to the Committee, and to remove 'petitions' referred from Core Objective 6. The Committee included "All cross-cutting issues that have a bearing on the Committee of Agriculture and Land Affairs." under section six Challenges and Problems. The training for Members would be broadened to include any other necessary training. The Committee debated prioritising its strategic objectives but decided that these were dependent on the decisions of the Minister. These time frames would have to be decided at a later date. The Business Plan was unanimously adopted with the minor amendments above.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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