The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, published late last week in the Government Gazette, has proposed the creation of a Spectrum Management Agency, separate to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), to manage scarce radio frequency spectrum.
The amendment bill, which is open for written public comment until the end of August, specifically removes Icasa’s role as manager, controller and administrator of spectrum in SA, leaving it with only the much smaller function of assigning spectrum access to commercial operators. The bill, when it is enacted, will replace the Electronic Communications Act, which governs the information and communications technology industry.
Spectrum is a key resource used by telecommunications operators and broadcasters to provide services to consumers. Decisions about how it is awarded have crucial implications for SA’s economic growth and for the technology sector.
But the creation of a new agency to deal with spectrum is likely to raise questions about the additional bureaucracy and costs involved and how the insitution will be funded.
The decision to create a separate government agency for spectrum management appears to be based on the US model, where there are separate agencies that manage private sector and government spectrum, says BMI-TechKnowledge MD Denis Smit.
According to the draft bill, the new Spectrum Management Agency will be responsible, on behalf of the state, for long-term spectrum planning, including the development of the national radio frequency plan. It will allocate spectrum for both government and nongovernment use and assign spectrum for government use. Icasa will remain responsible for assigning spectrum for commercial, nongovernment use only.
The Spectrum Management Agency and Icasa must enter into an agreement governing their “mutual cooperation” within three months of the Electronic Communications Amendment Act coming into force.
“It’s very similar to the American model,” says Smit, who is concerned that the creation of a separate spectrum agency could delay the assignment of spectrum to commercial, private-sector operators, many of which are champing at the bit for access to the 800MHz and 2,6GHz bands so they can begin building next-generation wireless broadband networks.
Smit says he is worried the proposal to create the new spectrum agency would lead to a “very serious delay” in the process of allocating spectrum to private-sector players. “My hope is that a quick decision will be made on what is government spectrum and what is private-sector spectrum. I’m hopeful that private-sector allocation will be accelerated,” Smit says. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media