JOHANNESBURG – The Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) on Friday took another step towards the licensing of spectrum, following numerous delays.
Icasa on Friday published the Information Memorandum setting out the options for licensing additional spectrum to the industry and setting out conditions for the proposed assignment as South Africa catches up with its emerging market peers.
The memorandum look at 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5GHz radio frequency bands and invites comments.
Icasa welcomed feedback in the form of written representations by January, 31, 2020.
Acting Icasa chairperson, Keabetswe Modimoeng, said, "We invite all interested parties to take the opportunity and make submissions to this process.
It is in the spirit of administrative justice and fairness that we consult stakeholders so that we can have their views on this imminent licensing process." Modimoeng said the releasing spectrum was an important step towards realizing the government’s commitment to curb the high data cost and a step in the right direction for South Africa.
“It has been quite a lengthy period of time towards the assignment of high demand spectrum due to some or other challenges we faced as the regulator. However, with the release of the policy direction in the recent past, there is no justification to delay any further,” said Modimoeng.
South Africa lags behind many other emerging countries in allocating broadband spectrum and that was one of the many reasons data prices have remained relatively high.
The licensing of the spectrum was among the immediate reforms that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni this week identified to be implemented without delay as a measure to kickstart the economys.
"Cabinet has directed Icasa to accelerate the licensing of high-demand broadband spectrum," said Mboweni during the tabling of the Medium-Term Budget Policy on Wednesday.
Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abraham had originally promised to issue a directive on the spectrum by the end of April 2019, however, she issued the directive to Icasa to make spectrum available and call for greater inclusivity from emerging and small businesses in July.
Ofentse Dazela, a director for Pricing Research at Africa Analysis, said that the Information Memorandum was encouraging news for telecoms market players.
"The authority is seemingly forging ahead with plans to allocate additional spectrum to market players in 2020 after waiting for the scare resource for 14 years," Dazela said.
Dazela said currently, the non-availability of spectrum continued to hamper the ability of mobile operators to roll out newer and faster data networks on a large commercial scale.
"The impact of the released spectrum will be massive, although the minister of the DCDT indicated that much of the high demand spectrum will be assigned to a Wholesale Open Access Network (WOAN) in line with changes made to the Electronic Communications Act in the Government Gazette published at the end of 2018, the allocation of additional spectrum to operators will result in reduced capex for network deployment, better quality services and increased competition in the retail market," Dazela said.