Great stall in spec­trum


The Citizen (KZN) - - Business - Te­bogo Tsh­wane

It will al­low op­er­a­tors to of­fer high­speed data ser­vices.

The com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog drew a line in the sand on Mon­day when it re­leased its fi­nal Data Mar­ket In­quiry Re­port, with far-reach­ing rec­om­men­da­tions such as that the big two mo­bile net­work providers Vo­da­com and MTN re­duce their prices.

Vo­da­com was the first to re­spond, say­ing the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion had “down­played” the im­por­tance of the de­layed re­lease of spec­trum on data prices.

Like Vo­da­com, MTN says that it has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the ef­fec­tive price of data and that the crit­i­cal bar­rier to re­duc­ing costs even fur­ther is limited spec­trum avail­abil­ity.

Spec­trum is im­por­tant be­cause it will al­low op­er­a­tors to of­fer high-speed data ser­vices that travel vast dis­tances and pen­e­trate walls. The spec­trum they cur­rently use al­lows them to do this but it also re­quires that they put their base sta­tions closer to­gether – at a higher cost.

So how did we get here? The ques­tion of spec­trum has been in limbo for some 10 years and has out­lasted eight com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ters.

Here is a time­line of sig­nif­i­cant events:

May 2010: Icasa re­leases the High De­mand Ra­dio Fre­quency Spec­trum Li­cens­ing Frame­work Reg­u­la­tions with in­vi­ta­tions to ap­ply for space in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz band.

July 2010: The in­vi­ta­tions are with­drawn as Icasa de­cides that it needs an auc­tion­eer from out­side South Africa.

De­cem­ber 2011: Icasa is­sues a draft Spec­trum As­sign­ment Plan for ra­dio fre­quency range 800MHz and 2.6GHz, de­lay­ing the open­ing of 3.5Ghz to a later date. This comes with a draft In­vi­ta­tion To Ap­ply.

March 2012: Icasa post­pones the li­cens­ing of the spec­trum again af­ter re­ceiv­ing sub­mis­sions from mo­bile op­er­a­tors that it would be pre­ma­ture to go ahead with draft plans and in­vi­ta­tions with­out pol­icy di­rec­tion from the then com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Dina Pule.

De­cem­ber 2013: New com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Yunus Car­rim pub­lishes the coun­try’s broad­band pol­icy ti­tled South Africa Con­nect: Cre­at­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties, En­sur­ing In­clu­sion.

March 2015: Icasa is­sues new Ra­dio Fre­quency Spec­trum Reg­u­la­tions.

Septem­ber 2015: Icasa pub­lishes the In­for­ma­tion Mem­o­ran­dum for prospec­tive ra­dio fre­quency spec­trum li­cences to pro­vide de­tails to those who in­tend to ap­ply for li­cences within

the des­ig­nated 700Mhz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands in or­der to pro­vide broad­band wire­less ac­cess ser­vices.

July 2016: Icasa pub­lishes an In­vi­ta­tion to Ap­ply for ra­dio fre­quency spec­trum li­cences in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.

Shortly af­ter that, then com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Faith Muthambi filed court pa­pers to block the in­vi­ta­tion, say­ing Icasa should have waited for the depart­ment to fi­nalise the Na­tional In­te­grated ITC (in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy) pol­icy white pa­per, which in­tro­duced the idea of a whole­sale open-ac­cess net­work (Woan).

Septem­ber 2016: Muthambi is granted a court in­ter­dict to halt the spec­trum auc­tion.

Oc­to­ber 2018: Icasa with­draws the in­vi­ta­tion to auc­tion pub­lished in July 2016. July 2019: Cur­rent min­is­ter

of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies Stella Nd­abeni-Abrahams pub­lishes the Pol­icy on High De­mand Spec­trum and Pol­icy Di­rec­tion of the Li­cens­ing of Woan.

Novem­ber 2019: Icasa on Novem­ber 1 re­leases its in­for­ma­tion mem­o­ran­dum on the li­cens­ing process for high-de­mand spec­trum in the 703-790MHz (IMT700), 790-862MHz (IMT800), 2 360-2 400MHz (IMT2300), (IMT3500) 2 500-2 690MHz (IMT2600) and 3 400-3 600MHz (IMT3500) bands. The discussion doc­u­ment is open for pub­lic sub­mis­sions un­til Jan­uary 31, 2020.

Ul­ti­mately, as men­tioned by the com­mis­sion, the use of the auc­tioned spec­trum will de­pend on the ac­cel­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal mi­gra­tion, which has also been ham­strung for years.

Sources: Icasa Novem­ber 2019 In­for­ma­tion Mem­o­ran­dum and

Pic­ture: Shut­ter­shock

NO END IN SIGHT? The ques­tion of spec­trum has been in limbo for nearly a decade and has out­lasted eight com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ters.

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