The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) council has resolved that operators should return the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to licensees to the authority by November 30, 2021. Omnitronics’ radio interoperability solution has been tested in a variety of operating environments.
According to the telecom’s regulator, the temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by way of an expedited invitation to apply during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster, which was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobile operators have used the temporary spectrum to launch 5G networks in SA’s cities after release.
Mobile operators have been waiting for ICASA to auction spectrum for a long time. By March 31, 2021, the regulator had planned that ICASA would auction the long-awaited high-demand spectrum. On the other hand, MTN, Telkom, and Etv took the regulator to court, challenging some aspects of the auction process. Last month, the regulator stated that the ongoing spectrum litigation settlement negotiations are progressing well and with a very positive outlook.
The allocation of the high-demand spectrum in South Africa has been up in the air for years, with the most recent significant spectrum awarded 16 years ago. It is expected that the freed-up spectrum will lower data costs and increase Internet access. A spectrum auction also means more money for the government’s coffers.
According to the authority, the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment has been extended twice since its inception, with the most recent extension expiring on August 31, 2021. More importantly, ICASA emphasises the importance of concentrating its efforts on permanent spectrum licensing. It is, however, critical that the industry be given enough time to plan and adjust its operations, it notes.
“The authority’s interventions concerning the release of the temporary radio frequency spectrum have indeed contributed immensely to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensuring that South Africans were, and continue to be, able to communicate during these unprecedented times,” says ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng. But, on the other hand, the authority cannot allow the temporary spectrum assignment to become permanent.”