Push for open-ac­cess net­work

De­part­ment com­mits to us­ing Woan and wants ser­vice op­er­a­tors to con­nect as well


THE DE­PART­MENT of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is push­ing for wire­less ser­vice op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing mo­bile phone op­er­a­tors, to utilise whole­sale open-ac­cess net­work (Woan) as op­posed to each provider hav­ing its own net­work cov­er­age.

Siya Qoza, spokesper­son for Min­is­ter of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Siyabonga Cwele, said yes­ter­day that this was part of a min­is­te­rial en­gage­ment with the in­dus­try, which also dis­cussed ICT pol­icy, skills de­vel­op­ment and pri­vate sec­tor in­volve­ment in the gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives on ICT.

“We are also mov­ing to­wards Woan and it is im­por­tant that com­pa­nies start plan­ning and mak­ing de­ci­sions on what ac­tion to take. There is a com­mit­ment that it be done ur­gently,” Qoza said.

He said Woan would al­low for op­er­a­tors to share net­work us­age and com­pete on other ser­vices such as voice or data.

“In some ar­eas the op­er­a­tors’ net­work does not over­lap, which leaves users un­able to ac­cess ser­vices. Woan en­sures that there is uni­ver­sal cov­er­age,” Qoza said.

In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Author­ity of South Africa (Icasa) spokesper­son Paseka Maleka con­firmed that the reg­u­la­tor was re­view­ing var­i­ous op­tions of li­cens­ing the 4G spec­trum by April next year. This as Min­is­ter Cwele con­firmed that South Africa would hold the long-de­layed auc­tion by the end of March.

In an in­ter­view, Maleka said it could not be cer­tain that the spec­trum would be auc­tioned be­cause there were many op­tions to con­sider.

“There is an agree­ment be­tween Icasa and the de­part­ment. We can­not con­firm that the spec­trum will nec­es­sar­ily be auc­tioned. We will an­nounce how the li­cens­ing will take place,” Maleka said.

He said Icasa was in the process of with­draw­ing the In­vi­ta­tion To Ap­ply (ITA) is­sued in 2016, which had seen a pro­tracted court bat­tle be­tween the reg­u­la­tor and the gov­ern­ment over how to pro­ceed with the dis­posal of the spec­trum.

“As soon as we are done with with­draw­ing the ITA, we will pro­ceed with the li­cens­ing process,” he said.

Maleka was wary of com­mit­ting to the March time frame for the auc­tion­ing or li­cens­ing of the spec­trum.

Speak­ing on the side­lines of a min­is­te­rial en­gage­ment with the in­dus­try yes­ter­day, Cwele said the gov­ern­ment sought to ex­tend high-speed in­ter­net ac­cess to a greater por­tion of the coun­try.

He con­firmed that the gov­ern­ment was work­ing on of­fer­ing 5G li­cences by 2020.

MO­BILE phone op­er­a­tors are be­ing en­cour­aged to use open-ac­cess (Woan).

ZIM­BAB­WEAN-BORN en­tre­pre­neur Lethukuthula Tsha­bangu.

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