The Media Guru

Jan 22, 2012


The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology have recently made public the National Broadband Policy 2012-2020, which is described as follows:

The National Broadband Policy 2012 – 2020 (NBP2012) sets out a strategic vision for a broadband Intelligent Mauritius, branded as “Towards i-Mauritius”, and establishes national goals regarding broadband while elaborating specific policies to achieve those goals within the overarching National ICT Strategic Plan (NICTSP) 2011-2014 context.

You can read the 131-page NICTSP 2011-2014 here. I’ve summarised some parts of the NBP2012 here.


Why do we need to encourage broadband access?

The concept of broadband has evolved from being a technology in opposite to narrowband to now being viewed as a key driver of economic growth and national competitiveness since it can contribute to social and cultural development.
According to the World Bank (2009), a 10% increase in broadband penetration accelerates economic growth by 1% in developed economies and by 1.38% points in developing economies.
Broadband is now considered to be the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century & that’s why it should be referred to as the broadband ecosystem.

The broadband ecosystem model

The ecosystem includes the networks that support high-speed data communication and the services these networks provide. It also includes the applications provided by these services and the users who are increasingly creating applications and contents. Investments by public and private investors or agencies, and user-demands expand the reach of high-speed networks.
These networks increase the availability of high-quality services to both users and application providers. Applications access these services to reach users, who respond to the affordability of the services and relevance of the applications. Users then grow in number and sophistication, demanding and driving greater investments in networks, creating the virtuous circle for broadband.


The Mauritian Broadband Ecosystem


The NICTSP had assessed the broadband strategy in Mauritius, & a lot remains to be done before we have a proper broadband ecosystem.

The recommended Mauritian Broadband Ecosystem

The 4 key areas of the ecosystem which needs improvements are:

  • Enacting policies to foster competition.
  • Freeing up more spectrum.
  • Lowering infrastructure costs.
  • Investing directly through research and development.


The Policy Objectives

A. Establishing Competition Policies.

Tools to protect & encourage competition in the markets that make up the broadband ecosystem: network services, devices, applications and content.

  • Phased price reduction path for broadband services.
  • A time specific zero VAT policy regarding investment in broadband infrastructure.
  • A time specific zero VAT policy regarding broadband consumption for users (services & hardware).
  • Publish detailed broadband pricing & competition information to impact competitive behaviour.
  • Disclosure requirements for ISPs to ensure consumers can choose best broadband offers.
  • A review of wholesale competition rules in collaboration with the Competition Commission.
  • Allow data roaming to determine how best to achieve wide, seamless and competitive coverage.
  • Make Regulations to allow a competitive and innovative video set-top box market.
  • Clarify the relationship between users and their online profiles to ensure privacy.


B. Ensuring efficient allocation and management of scarce resources.

Government establishes policies and legislations for the use of spectrum and oversees access to poles and rights-of-way, which are used in the deployment of broadband networks. Wherever resources are scarce, priority will be given to new entrants and non-dominant existing firms in the relevant market in an attempt to balance overall levels of competition.

The wireless spectrum:

  • Make 500 MHz of spectrum newly available for broadband within 10 years (300 Mhz for mobile use within 5 years).
  • Enable incentives and mechanisms (like auctions) to repurpose spectrum to more flexible uses.
  • Ensure greater transparency of spectrum allocation, assignment and use.
  • Innovative spectrum access models by creating new avenues for opportunistic and unlicensed use of spectrum.


  • Establish low rental rates for access to poles & simplify process for service providers to attach facilities to poles.
  • Improve rights-of-way management for cost & time savings, promote use of municipal and local authority facilities for broadband, expedite resolution of disputes & establish “best practices” guidelines for rights-of-way policies.
  • Facilitate efficient new infrastructure construction, including through “dig-once” policies, allowing joint deployment of broadband infrastructure.

C. Reforming Universal Service Mechanisms

All Mauritians should have access to broadband service with sufficient capabilities; all should be able to afford broadband to ensure that they have the opportunity to reap the benefits of broadband.

  • Broaden the USF contribution base to ensure USF remains sustainable over time.
  • Ensure universal access to broadband network services.
  • Establish a Broadband Connect Mauritius Fund to minimize the size of the broadband availability gap.
  • Create mechanisms to ensure affordability to low-income Mauritians by introducing a Lifeline programme to allow subsidies to low-income Mauritians.
  • Consider licensing a block of spectrum with a condition to offer free or low-cost service.


D. Support adoption and utilisation of broadband

All Mauritians should have the opportunity to develop digital literacy skills to take advantage of broadband so as to further the adoption and utilisation of broadband.

  • Launch a National Digital Literacy Group (NDLG) to organize and train youth and adults to teach digital literacy skills.
  • Redefine the scope of the USF so as to shift this resource to support adoption and utilisation strategies.


E. Updating policies, setting standards and aligning incentives to maximize use for national priorities.

Health care: Broadband can help improve the quality and lower the cost of health care through e-health and improved data capture and use.

  • Help ensure that health care providers have access to affordable broadband.
  • Create incentives for adoption by expanding reimbursement for e-care.
  • Remove barriers to e-care by modernizing regulations like device approval, credentialing, privileging and licensing.
  • Drive innovative applications and advanced analytics by ensuring patients have control over their health data and ensuring interoperability of data.

Education: Broadband can enable improvements in public education through e-learning and online content, which can provide more personalized learning opportunities for students.

  • Improve the connectivity to schools & libraries, improve program efficiency & promote wireless connectivity to learning devices that go home with students.
  • Accelerate online learning by enabling the creation of digital content & learning systems, removing regulatory barriers & promoting digital literacy.
  • Personalise learning and improve decision–making by fostering adoption of electronic educational records.

Energy and Environment: Broadband can play a major role in the transition to a clean energy economy.

  • Modernize the electric grid with broadband, making it more reliable and efficient.
  • Unleash energy innovation in homes and buildings by making energy data readily accessible to consumers.
  • Improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the ICT sector by promoting green energy sources.

Economic Opportunity: Broadband can expand access to jobs and training, support entrepreneurship and small business growth.

  • Support use of broadband services and applications to drive job creation, growth and productivity gains.
  • Expand opportunities for job training and placement through an online platform.
  • Integrate broadband assessment and planning into economic development efforts.

Public safety, emergency communication and national security: Broadband can bolster efforts to improve public safety and national security.

  • Support deployment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety mobile broadband network built on the present radio network of the Police department, over the next 5 years.
  • Promote innovation in the emergency alert systems.
  • Promote cybersecurity and critical infrastructure survivability to increase user confidence, trust and adoption of broadband communications.
  • Develop cellular emergency signalling systems on the present mobile services.

Improving Government Services: Within government, broadband can drive greater efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery and internal operations.

  • Upgrade of the present GOC platform, enhanced cybersecurity, secure authentication and online service delivery.
  • Use of VoIP for intra-government communication.


The Targets

  • By 2014, at least 60% of homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 10 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 5 Mbps; and by 2020, almost 100% of home should have affordable access to actual download of 100 Mbps.
  • Mauritius should become a leader in the region in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks by 2020.
  • By 2020, every Mauritian should have affordable access to robust broadband service and the means and skills to subscribe thereto if they so choose.
  • By 2020, every public institution should have affordable access to at least 100 Mbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
  • To ensure safety of the public at large, every alarm monitoring and security response service provider should, by 2020, have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
  • To ensure that Mauritius leads in the clean energy economy in line with the Maurice ile Durable (MID) programme, every Mauritian should, by 2020, be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.


The Policy Measures

Part III of the document details the measures that will be implemented to fulfil the Policy Objectives. Interesting measures:

  • New broadband measurement standards to provide detailed analysis of offers.
  • Opening up the spectrum to allow new technologies like 4G (LTE) & WiMax.
  • A “dig-once” legislation to reduce infrastructure cost setup.
  • R&D department by MRC for areas related to broadband.
  • Universalisation target of 1Mbps download & 256kbps upload.
  • Reduce barriers to broadband adoption – Lifeline Assistance for low-income households, very low-cost wireless broadband, public-private-partnerships.
  • Increase the supply of digital educational content available online that is compatible with standards established. Encourage copyright holders to grant educational digital rights of use.
  • Investment in open licensed and public domain software alongside traditionally licensed solutions for online learning solutions.
  • Legislative framework to allow Creative Commons Licences especially in research and education/pedagogy.
  • Create a public safety broadband network.



I think that such a National Broadband Policy document is definitely needed if Mauritius intends to make ICT as one of the pillars of the economy. Companies, so far, have been reluctant to invest in broadband services to a small market like Mauritius that doesn’t provide economies of scale due to its remoteness & size. This policy has a few such measures (if applied) that will allow new entrants to overcome their inherent disadvantage against Mauritius Telecom in terms of infrastructure. The initiatives planned in education, health, transport & cybersecurity are also highly commendable.

However, I think ICT Ministry should have been more ambitious. Instead of setting up bodies to consider some proposals, they should have started thinking of how to implement them. For now, let’s hope this policy document isn’t discarded away by the stakeholders. A broadband ecosystem for Mauritius is a must.

& please, please drop the term i-Mauritius!

Download the NBP2012 here.

One more thing, remember the free Internet in Mauritius by December? Well, the bidding for the Deployment of Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) Network has just ended & it won’t be long before project is implemented (mid-2012). The free wifi will be initially deployed in 10 regions across Mauritius, namely at the 5 municipal councils, the 4 district councils & somewhere in Rodrigues. (Update: DCL have bagged the project & are installing the antennas).



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yadhav13 said...

It's a good initiative and I'm sure we'll all have a 100 Mbps connection in 2020. But will the 100 Mbps be within the Internet norms in 2020? 10 years ago, the current speed we are receiving would have been considered really fast but in fact it isn't today, right? It's because 10 years ago we couldn't have predicted technologies like 1080p videos which require a lot of bandwidth. More technologies which require even more bandwidth will come, and the 100 Mbps will not be enough for browsing the Internet 'comfortably' in 2020. We'll lag behind. Again. Just like now.

100 Mbps is currently what Free is offering. We'll receive that in 2020 ...

There is always trouble in long-term planning in these fields. And planning a 100 Mbps connection for everyone in the next few years isn't realistic. But the 100 Mbps target can easily be increased to something reasonable (or not), given that so much work can be done between today & 2020.

carrotmadman6 said...

"The Ministry will set up a National Broadband Task Force to coordinate the implementation of the National Broadband Policy."

I suppose this TF will be updating the targets as they seem fit. Indeed, 100Mbps seems like quite low for 2020.

Kam said...

We definetly need to start somewhere...100Mbps is definetly low for 2020. Currently, this speed is term as superfast broadband in UK.Hope they will review the nominal throughput level required. What we need is to the govt to invest in the infrastrure ...make local loop unbundling a reality and open access on the International Internet Pipe.

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