Communications regulator Icasa said it is publishing regulations on Monday that prescribe minimum standards that licensees must adhere to for the entire period of the national state of disaster.
A critical measure introduced by the regulations is the temporary release of high-demand spectrum for the duration of the national state of disaster to ease network congestion, maintain good quality of broadband services and allow licensees to lower cost of access to consumers, it said.
Icasa will temporarily assign spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands. Licensees will be required to submit their applications by no later than Thursday, 9 April. “The bands will be assigned in accordance with the criteria and conditions stipulated by the authority,” Icasa said.
“It is of critical importance to note that the emergency release of this spectrum does not, in any way whatsoever, negate the processes that are currently under way for the permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction,” said acting chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng. He said Icasa still intends to finalise the licensing process by the end of the year, along with spectrum to be set aside for a planed wireless open-access network.
“In light of the recent economic developments — particularly the country’s downgrade by rating agencies — the release of high-demand spectrum has become critical as it is one of the key interventions to stimulate economic recovery. The authority will take all measures necessary to ensure that the permanent licensing process for high-demand spectrum is expedited.”
‘Fair and non-discriminatory’
The emergency release of spectrum “should neither delay nor undermine processes to license the spectrum on a permanent basis”, Modimoeng said. “Hence, the criteria to be used to release the spectrum for use on an emergency basis shall be fair and non-discriminatory.
“We intend to take the necessary care in this regard; and to ensure that there are no irreversible anticompetitive effects for the market. In addition, we urge licensees to work with us for the benefit of all South Africans in a collaborative effort so that the emergency release of the spectrum can make a meaningful contribution to curb the spread and flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic.” — © 2020 NewsCentral Media