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ICASA commits to provisional assignment of high-demand spectrum

24 November 2021 News

ICASA (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) has decided – following consultation with several of SA’s telecoms infrastructure operators – to invite applications for provisional assignment of radio frequency spectrum under the new ICT COVID-19 National State of Disaster Regulations, 2021.

In this regard, it has committed to make available the following International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) bands available for provisional assignment effective from 1 December 2021: 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2600 MHz and 3500 MHz.

The provisional assignment arrangement will be implemented for a period of seven months ending 30 June 2022, or three months after the termination of the National State of Disaster, whichever comes first. The bands shall be assigned in accordance with the criteria and conditions stipulated by ICASA in the aforementioned state of disaster regulations. After considering the applications, it expects to make a final decision before the end of November.

ICASA said in a press statement that it believes it is in the best interests of the public to have a provisional spectrum licensing arrangement in place over the next 7 months. This will enable all other inherent licensing processes to conclude while mitigating any possible service disruptions.

“ICASA is not a spectrum-hoarding regulator. All we want is ultimately a competitive, transparent and all-inclusive spectrum licensing regime and plans are afoot in that regard. The provisional spectrum licensing arrangement is an improved pro-competitive interim measure but is not a permanent process considering its limited participatory scope. This provisional arrangement is tailored to deal with any network issues which may affect the provision of services to consumers in the intervening period,” said ICASA chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

Operators who wish to participate in this process will, amongst others, pay an application fee, an acquisition fee as well as the spectrum licence (utilisation) fee in line with the spectrum applied for.

ICASA has given its assurance that this temporary arrangement will not affect its plans to permanently license the IMT spectrum, also known as high-demand spectrum, in accordance with the truncated timetable as published on 1 October.

On that date, Modimoeng announced that ICASA was embarking on a process to consult stakeholders on key aspects pertaining to the expedited licensing process for high-demand spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) including, amongst others, implications of the release of high-demand spectrum (and licensing of the WOAN) to competition in the market, the radio frequency bands to be licensed in view of the yet to be completed digital migration process, and the nature and extent of obligations to be imposed.




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