The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) announced that it would reassign temporary radio frequency spectrum to cellular network operators given to them during the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
“ICASA has decided to make available for provisional assignment the following International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) bands effective December 1, 2021, namely the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2300MHz, 2600MHz, and 3500MHz bands,” the regulator stated.
“All qualifying licensees will have five working days to submit their applications to the Authority, with applications due by 16h00 on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.”
This temporary spectrum assignment will be valid for seven months, ending on June 30, 2022, or three months after concluding South Africa’s national calamity, whichever comes first.
“The bands shall be assigned per the Authority’s criteria and conditions in the ICT Covid-19 National State of Disaster Regulations,” ICASA noted.
ICASA stated that it would consider the applications and make a final decision by November 26, 2021. In addition, the regulator said that it believes having an interim spectrum licensing agreement in place for the next seven months is in the public’s best interest as it will allow all other licensing processes to be concluded while minimising any potential service disruptions.
“ICASA is not a regulator that hoards spectrum. “All we want is a competitive, transparent, and all-inclusive spectrum licensing framework, and plans are afoot in that regard,” said ICASA chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng.
“The provisional spectrum licensing arrangement is a better pro-competitive interim measure, but given its restricted participatory scope, it is not a permanent process.” Instead, this temporary solution is designed to address any network challenges that may arise during the intervening period, affecting the provision of services to consumers.”
Operators who would like to participate in this process will have to pay an application fee, an acquisition fee, and a spectrum licence (utilisation) fee based on the spectrum requested, ICASA said. However, the regulator continued to say that it remains committed to permanently licensing the high demand spectrum. It hopes to start the spectrum auction by March 2022.