The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is waiting for a meeting with communications minister Roy Padayachie to iron out issues around a planned spectrum auction before proceeding.
The authority had hoped to finalise the details around the auction of the valuable spectrum in the 2,5GHz and 3,6GHz frequency bands by the end of last month. However, issues raised by Padayachie need to be tackled before the regulator makes any announcements.
“The matter is still outstanding due to the fact that the authority is still considering issues raised by the minister in our recommendations to him,” says Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka.
The two frequency bands are ideally suited for providing wireless broadband services — and telecommunications providers are keen to see that spectrum in commercial hands as soon as possible.
The auction was meant to have taken place in 2010, but was postponed just after new Icasa chairman Stephen Mncube took office in June last year.
The regulator said at the time that the spectrum needed to be properly allocated for new technologies that are on the horizon for delivering mobile broadband. It wanted to make LTE (long-term evolution) networks more feasible when the auction of the spectrum began.
Icasa then began a hunt for an auctioneer that would help it dole out the spectrum in the best way possible. The details were to have been finalised last month and operators were hoping to see an invitation to apply for the spectrum this month.
The authority indicated previously that an auctioneer had been selected and the names were forwarded to the minister. However, Icasa has not given any indication of whether the original recommendations have been accepted or not.
Icasa regards this as a “critical matter that needs constructive and swift engagement with the ministry and we will make a proper pronouncement as soon as that consultation has taken place, which we hope will not take long to conclude”, says Maleka.
Meanwhile potential bidders for the spectrum are becoming impatient. Already the Internet Service Providers’ Association has called for Icasa to provide more details on the matter.
“The industry needs clarity on the timelines involved and the status of the various steps, such as in-band migration, which need to take place to allow for an optimal assignment,” the association said in a statement. — Candice Jones, TechCentral