REPORT OF SELECT COMMITTEE ON LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES ON OVERSIGHT VISIT TO SENTECH, GAUTENG PROVINCE ON 6 OCTOBER 2004
A. TERMS OF REFERENCE.
In order to encourage clustering of activities amongst relevant Committees, the Select Committees on Economic and Foreign Affairs, and on Labour and Public Enterprises undertook a joint visit to the Gauteng Province. This report captures those issues that are relevant to the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises (the Committee).
The aim of the visit was to get overview of Sentech and conduct oversight over work done to facilitate development in the Information and communications sector (ICT). In realising its objectives, the Committee received presentations and visited different sites that form part of operations of Sentech.
B. LOGISTICAL ARRANGEMENTS
The delegation consisted of the following persons:
Ms N D Ntwanambi (Acting Chairperson), (ANC)
Mr D G Mkono (ANC)
Ms E S Mabe (ANC)
Mr J M Sibiya (ANC)
Ms M P Themba (ANC)
Mr K Sinclair (NNP)
Ms J F Terblanche (DA)
Mrs S Chen (DA)
Ms Phumza Mpoyiya (Committee Secretary)
Mr M Erasmus (Stand in Committee Secretary).
Sentech assisted with developing the programme. It was slightly amended as the Committee first visited the Sender Technology Park (STP) (Refer to Annexure A).
The Chairperson of Sentech Mr Mncube received the Committee and remained with the delegation for the rest of the proceedings. He expressed gratitude to the Committee. He mentioned that the technology used by Sentech is in line with the telecommunications and broadcasting legislation. He informed the Committee that Sentech played a pivotal role in broadcasting the results of the 2010 soccer bid.
1. Presentation by the Sentech Limited
Mr Marumo made the presentation on behalf of Dr Makome-Matabane, the Chief Executive Officer of Sentech, who could not be available due to other commitments.
Included in the presentations were the following areas:
(a) A brief overview of the organisation and what it does.
Sentech is a 100% state-owned communications company, established in terms of the Sentech Act of 1996 (as amended). It is licensed in terms of the Telecommunications Act in order to operate as a multimedia and carrier of carriers. It is licensed in terms of the IBA Act as a signal distributor for television, public, commercial, and community radio stations.
Sentech offers radio transmission and broadcasting to: 7 television services, 18 public radio services, 12 commercial radio and 38 community radio stations. In addition the company provides services Vivid Satellite multi-channel broadcast Platform. The services provided by Sentech are free air-to-broadcasting services, and encrypted free access broadcasting services.
These are done for 12 television channels, 25 radio channels and 20 business channels for closed user groups.
In 1998, D Little was commissioned by the Minister to determine whether Sentech could perform beyond being a carrier of carriers. The report findings reflected that Sentech could do more.
Technical Skills Development
Most employees in the lower levels have entry-level skills. The company is focusing on the re-education of its employees. The focus is on re-training in order to keep them in line with technology of the organisation.
Sentech recently signed an agreement with the ISSET-SETA, which would enable 45 learners to be sent on learnerships at the beginning of 2005.
Sentech and Convergence
It is a fully converged communications company. It aims to assist in ensuring that South Africa is ready for a digital future, by using 1st world technology. The challenge however is to ensure that there is access to relevant infrastructure in order to ensure that communication can proceed well.
The Mywireless product was launched late last year and has proved to be a success. However, the challenge is that for it to be effective across the country, Sentech has go digital and place more services in strategic places.
The main challenge is that the transmission stations of Sentech are mostly analogue.
(b) Presentation on Sentech Products
Sentech launched the Vstar service, which provides high-speed connections between customer premises through Sentech’s hub to the rest of the world. This offers an opportunity for users and providers to connect quickly. It is suitable for people in rural areas.
The system enables the user to talk back to a central hub through communications technology. The Mywireless device has a number of features, which are not hindered by space and time. It is not affected by moving location. It is easy to use the facility that works immediately upon connection.
Sentech, in collaboration with the Gauteng Government is involved in bridging the digital divide by introducing computers in schools. The project is still in the first phase and already Sentech has provided 1 100 schools with Internet laboratories. Service providers are given an opportunity to effect connections and Sentech will provide every learner with an email address.
This relates to the way the programmes are being processed and transmitted to users and service providers. Through the multi channel system, the broadcaster is licensed to operate the channel frequency assigned to the network operator wave.
It is the efficient use of the frequency spectrum that allows for fast, good sound quality. The costs of transmission are lower, and this could lead to huge savings for broadcasters. Digitisation offers multiple language channel capability, which in turn allows for cultural diversity. It also offers improved service offerings such as e-government, adult education and health services.
2. Tour of Sender Technology Park at Radiokop
The Sender Technology Park (STP) was once located in a secluded area far from the communities. However, due to urban development, residential areas now surround the area. It forms the nerve of Sentech because it is where real work takes place. The satellite dishes enable Sentech to collect information from all over the world and disseminate this to different broadcasting centres. The STP also transmits voice messages internally and internationally.
The Local government when it identified the location did not consider the impact of radioactive materials, which could be hazardous to the communities located close to STP. The future challenge for Sentech is to move these facilities to a secluded location again. It is estimated that this will cost about R1.2billion.
3. Visit to Sentech Tower
Mr Juan Du Toit welcomed the Committee and led the tour into the Tower. The Committee was informed about the brief history of the building and amongst others the following issues were highlighted:
The tower structure was designed in 1961, and the first transmission in FM took place in 22 December 1961. In 1974 the first TV transmissions were broadcast in colour. The construction is composed of 7 000 tons of concrete, 3 000 tons of reinforcing was required, bringing the total mass of the tower to 7 820 tons. The rock formation is able to withstand a huge amount of pressure and serves as part of the foundation. The foundation is made up of a ring like figure with a diameter of 26m it is 6m wide. The depth of the foundation is 2m. The tower structure was built to withstand wind speeds of up to 186 km/h and gusts of up to 200 km/h. At these types of wind speeds the concrete structure can sway over 20cm and the top steel structure will sway close to 70cm.
At the time of building the 247m tower was the highest freestanding structure in Africa and the tenth highest structure in the world. In comparison to the Sentech Tower that is 247m high, the Eiffel Tower is 320m and the Empire State Building is 420m tall.
It also has a conference facility situated 176m above ground level. The base of the tower is situated 1 785m above sea level, whilst its top is 2 000m above sea level. In case of a power failure, the station has a back up of 1 Mega Watt using two Volvo generators. Currently the tower offers broadcasting for 18 MF programmes and 6 TV programmes.
The Committee was taken through the building and saw the latest and
older technologies that are used for transmission to different business and community radio services.
4. Report on visit to Clinix Hospital in Soweto
The shortage of doctors in many parts of the country contributes to people being misdiagnosed and illnesses not being identified promptly.
As way of addressing this problem, Sentech in partnership with the Clinix Hospital in Soweto is involved in a pilot project to save lives of people in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape Province has a shortage of radiologists and X-ray images take long before results are received. Sentech connectivity between the two hospitals allows for medical doctors in the Eastern Cape to refer information to Soweto. The X-ray images are transmitted via VSAT to Soweto. Radiologists make a diagnosis of the images and then send a report to the hospital. Through telemedicine, the primary health care objectives are realised.
5. Requests from Sentech
In order for digitisation to occur a national policy and migration policy need to be developed. These are important to improve support for viewers in respect of set-top box or decoder. Sentech would need R1.2billion support from the government.
Sentech made a plea to the Committee to encourage provincial educational governments for support in their endeavors to install technology for educational support in schools.
6. Recommendations by Committee
The Committee was informed that women in Sentech occupy lower ranks compared to their male counter parts. Sentech needs to further develop and enhance their strategy to address gender and race challenges.
The Committee recommended that Sentech, through parliamentary constituency offices, provide information to promote services related to education, health and e-government business to popularise their availability in other provinces.
7. Concluding Remarks
The Committee would like to extend its appreciation in the manner in which it was received and hosted by Sentech.
Ms N D Ntwanambi
Report to be considered.
OVERSIGHT VISIT BY THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON LABOUR
AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES
ON 06 OCTOBER 2004
08:30 - Arrival of Members of Parliament at the Sentech Tower
09:00 - Welcome by Programme Director – Matime Nchabeleng
09: 05 - Sentech’s challenges and Achievements – CEO, Dr Sebiletso
09:20 - Tour of the Sentech Tower – Juan Du toit
10:20 - Leaving for STP (Sender Technology Park)
11:15 - Sentech’s Products – Pragasen Nagan
11:30 – Tour of Sentech’s Teleport – Maggie Ntuli
Vsat – Wiseman
12:00 – Leaving for Clinix Hospital
13:00 - Lunch at Wandies, Soweto
14:30 – Delegation leaving for Holiday Inn Hotel in Pretoria to refresh
18:00 - Dinner at Cynthia’s Restaurant, Brooklyn, Pretoria
19:30 – CEO’s Address to the Select Committee
19:45 - Vote of Thanks by the Chairperson - gifts