Finance minister Tito Mboweni will “work relentlessly” with communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to ensure additional radio frequency spectrum is allocated to telecommunications operators as soon as possible.
Delivering the national budget speech in parliament on Wednesday, Mboweni again reiterated government’s position that it will soon finalise a policy direction to communications regulator for the licensing of so-called high-demand spectrum, which can be used to deliver wireless broadband services to consumers.
Icasa will be resourced to deliver on this mandate, the minister said. “Hashtag data costs must fall,” he added to laughter and applause from MPs.
The licensing of spectrum will happen before a legislative process to amend the Electronic Communications Act is completed. Ndabeni-Abrahams recently withdrew the controversial Electronic Communications Amendment Bill from parliament for further discussion with industry stakeholders.
South Africa’s mobile operators have never specifically been allocated spectrum to roll out 4G/LTE networks and have been forced to “refarm” allocations meant for 2G and 3G to deliver 4G services. The networks have become congested in some areas, forcing the companies to densify their networks.
Complicated the matter is that South Africa’s digital television migration project is years behind schedule, meaning the digital dividend bands at 700MHz and 800MHz cannot yet be used by telecoms operators to deliver services. These bands are particularly well suited for providing blanket coverage in cities and delivering 4G services in rural areas more affordably. — © 2019 NewsCentral Media