The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), an independent regulatory body of the South African government, is under fire for delaying making the high-demand electromagnetic spectrum frequency bands available.
According to an industry expert, the spectrum which was auctioned in the past few weeks was dormant and readily available for years. In his assessment, the expert noted that the current migration of broadcasting frequencies, the auction and assigning of the high-demand spectrum had been long overdue.
“The delay of the allocation has heavily impacted the consumers of mobile telecommunication services who have had to bear the migration and auction delay costs. In addition, the consumers of mobile network services in both urban and rural areas have suffered from insufficient broadband coverage and expensive data services,” he noted.
The BMA source believes that the regulator’s delay in allocating spectrum to mobile networks was because the Competition Commission had a desirable competitive feature of the mobile-telecommunication market.
Furthermore, in 2017, the Competition Commission launched an investigation into the data-service industry to comprehend what aspects lead to high data service prices and assess market power areas and spectrum allocation.
In 2019, the Competition Commission finalised its data-service market inquiry report.
The report stated that the pro-competitive task of the high-demand spectrum, using spectrum caps took on the two biggest operators, and the asymmetric spectrum task favoured smaller operators.
“Since the spectrum constraints of smaller players are not harsher than those of the bigger operators, the cost reduction and productivity benefits will result in the additional spectrum being provided to the bigger operators.”
At this stage, consumers will have to bear the grunt of the digital migration delay, which has been halted for the next three months. Also, the experts say that until the mobile network spectrum has been allocated as per auction, consumers will continue bearing insufficient broadband coverage and costly data services, which impairs economic productivity and educational opportunities.