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ICASA doles out provisional RF spectrum

24 November 2021 News

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has concluded its analysis of applications for provisional assignment of radio frequency spectrum under the new ICT Covid-19 National State of Disaster Regulations 2021 and resolved to grant licences to six electronic communications network operators.

The licences are valid for a period of seven months, commencing from 1 December 2021 and ending on 30 June 2022 – or three months after the termination of the National State of Disaster – whichever comes first.

By the closing date of 17 November, ICASA had received applications from Rain Networks, Vodacom, Cell C, Telkom, Liquid Intelligence Technologies and MTN. All applications were considered in accordance with the criteria and conditions stipulated in the aforementioned regulations.

The licences are issued in respect of radio frequency spectrum for the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2600 MHz and 3500 MHz bands.

700/800 MHz band

The following assignments of provisional spectrum were granted in the IMT700 MHz band:

MTN – 10 MHz.

Telkom – 20 MHz.

Vodacom – 10 MHz.

Rain Networks – 20 MHz.

As for the IMT800 band, the following assignments were awarded:

MTN – 10 MHz.

Telkom – 20 MHz.

Vodacom – 10 MHz.

Cell C – 20 MHz.

Rain Networks – applied for but not granted.

Since analog and digital television broadcasting services still occupy parts of the 700 MHz and 800 MHz radio frequency bands, ICASA urged licencees to share and coordinate usage in these frequency bands through a geographic separation of International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT) systems and broadcasting services in affected areas and in accordance with the Terrestrial Broadcasting Frequency Plan of 2013.

2300 MHz band

Only one application for the IMT2300 band was received, from Telkom, which was duly awarded 40 MHz of provisional spectrum in this band.

2600 MHz band

Telkom – 10 MHz.

MTN – 40 MHz.

Vodacom – 40 MHz.

Rain Networks – 60 MHz.

Cell C – 20 MHz.

3500 MHz band

Telkom – 12 MHz.

MTN – 40 MHz.

Vodacom – 40 MHz.

Liquid Intelligent Technologies – 4 MHz.

Cell C – 20 MHz.

The chairperson of ICASA, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, expressed his gratitude to all the applicants and emphasised the need to use these provisional assignments as a step towards urgently finalising the permanent high-demand spectrum licencing process.

“This provisional spectrum assignment remains an interim measure, intended to improve communication services for consumers in the intervening period, with the goal being to permanently licence the spectrum through an auction commencing in March 2022. This provisional licencing phase attempts temporarily to address competition concerns and levy appropriate fees, but a more all-inclusive regime will be yielded through a competitive bidding approach,” he said.

All licencees will be required to pay a spectrum acquisition fee, as well as a spectrum usage fee, in addition to the up-front application fee. Through this provisional spectrum assignment arrangement and its related fees (for acquisition, spectrum usage and application), ICASA will raise about R200 million in the short term for the national fiscus.

This provisional radio frequency spectrum regime is confirmation that the temporary spectrum issued in April 2020 ceases to exist on 30 November 2021, and that the provisional spectrum assignment arrangement becomes effective from 1 December 2021.




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