The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of the telecommunications industry, as the world relied on connected services to keep economies operating during intermittent lockdowns and restrictions throughout 2020 and 2021. Connectivity has become as essential as electricity and water, and some industry proponents argue that connectivity should be a basic human right, as Covid-19-related restrictions reveal a digital divide in access to universal and affordable connectivity services. South Africa’s own telecommunications industry has proven a critical enabler of connectivity on an unprecedented scale: it kept businesses operating by enabling employees to work from home, connected families that were separated, enabled home-schooling for students and facilitated the continuity of daily life as people turned to their computers and smartphones to substitute their in-person activities online. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa believes that some of this newly developed reliance may continue in the “new normal” or at least until the emergence of a long-term solution, such as universally adopted vaccines, making ongoing access to reliable digital infrastructure for telework, telemedicine, food delivery and logistics, online and contactless payments, remote learning and entertainment all the more urgent. Creamer Media’s ‘Telecommunications 2021: A changing landscape’ report considers the evolution of South Africa’s telecommunications market, the companies operating in it, the new technologies they are adopting, as well as the challenges they are facing, such as spectrum and data costs, in this constantly evolving landscape.
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