Icasa edges towards spectrum allocation

Icasa edges towards spectrum allocation

South Africa is finally edging towards the much-awaited allocation of high-demand spectrum, with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa announcing that a document outlining licencing criteria would be released by the end of the year.

The allocation of spectrum, set to increase the provision of high speed internet connectivity, is expected to lower data costs and improve competition among service providers through broadened internet and data access.

The release of spectrum in SA is seen as a key enabler of economy activity.

Icasa said in a statement on Thursday that an Information Memorandum, to be released by the end of the third quarter, would provide guidance to prospective applicants on the criteria to be undertaken in the licensing of spectrum.

The development follows the release of a policy framework on the matter by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Icasa Acting Chair Keabetswe Modimoeng also said the memorandum was a further opportunity for stakeholders and prospective applicants to make inputs and representations on the proposed licencing process, criteria and timelines. 

"The licensing of high demand spectrum is one of the critical components to facilitate deployment of digital infrastructure to ensure that all South Africans realise and participate meaningfully in the opportunities emanating from the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Modimoeng added.

Mobile phone operators have in recent years been urging government to speed up spectrum allocation, which they say would allow high-speed data services. Some of the possible allocation methods which have been put forward including auctioning.

Previous attempts at allocating spectrum had been fraught with red tape and litigation.

In July, 2016 Icasa invited applicants to apply for 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum licences, which would boost the rollout of faster LTE broadband.

However, former communications minister, Siyabonga Cwele, fought the auction on grounds that government’s policy regarding spectrum, at that stage, had not yet been finalised and that the sale risks only benefited big companies with access to capital.

Cwele asked the North Gauteng High Court to interdict and set aside the Icasa planned auction.