The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is planning to temporarily release the high-demand International Mobile Telecommunications spectrum as telecommunications demand surges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The move aims to ease the burden of regulatory compliance for the sector during the national state of disaster and enable the sector to meet increased demand for information and communications technology services.
“A critical measure introduced by the regulations is the temporary release of high-demand spectrum for the duration of the national state of disaster in order to ease network congestion, maintain good quality of broadband services and enable licensees to lower cost of access to consumers,” said Icasa acting chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
The bands available for temporary assignment include the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2 300 MHz, 2 600 MHz and 3 500 MHz bands.
In line with this, Icasa published a Government Gazette containing regulations that prescribe minimum standards that licensees must adhere to for the entire period of the national state of disaster.
Licensees have until April 9 to submit their applications, after which the bands will be assigned, on an emergency basis, in accordance with fair and non-discriminatory criteria and conditions stipulated by the authority.
“It is of critical importance to note that the emergency release of this spectrum does not, in any way whatsoever, negate the processes that are currently underway for permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction, the process which the authority had committed to finalise by the end of 2020; as well as the assignment of spectrum to be set aside for the Wireless Open Access Network due for completion next year,” Modimoeng pointed out.
It is believed that the release of high-demand spectrum will play a critical role in stimulating economic recovery following the lockdown and the various downgrades experienced in recent weeks.
The authority will also take all measures necessary to ensure that the permanent licensing process for high-demand spectrum is expedited.
“We intend to take the necessary care in this regard; and to ensure that there are no irreversible anti-competitive effects for the market. In addition, we really urge licensees to work with us for the benefit of all South Africans in a collaborative effort so that the emergency release of the spectrum can make a meaningful contribution to curb the spread and flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Modimoeng concluded.