The South African Communications Forum (SACF), an industry grouping whose members include telecommunications operators and technology companies, has welcomed the “breakthrough” in ICT policy regarding spectrum allocation and the implementation of a wireless wholesale open-access network (Woan).
The organisation described the development as a “significant step towards furthering a more competitive and representative ICT sector through the level of equity to be held by black entities in the Woan and the realisation of some of the other transformation goals of the ICT [policy] white paper”.
Telecommunications & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele on Wednesday confirmed an earlier report on TechCentral that a high-level study will be done to determine how much radio frequency spectrum will be reserved for a planned Woan.
The study will consider how much spectrum will be set aside for the Woan and how much will be made available to mobile operators on an exclusive-use basis.
The move can be seen as a partial U-turn by the minister, who had previously championed the idea, contained in the 2016 national integrated ICT policy white paper, that all future “high-demand” broadband spectrum would be reserved for the Woan.
Cwele also confirmed that there is no immediate intention of forcing operators to return existing spectrum allocations, though he left open the possibility of this happening at a future date.
The idea of making operators return their spectrum, which they’ve used to build their 2G, 3G and 4G networks, was first mooted in the white paper, and has been slammed by industry players and critics, who have warned about its constitutionality. Cwele said he hoped his decision will lead to greater investor certainty and avoid a protracted legal battle with the industry.
“The breakthrough was facilitated through the Economic Chamber of the National ICT Forum, which brought incumbents and new entrants together to find sufficient agreement enabling the breakthrough on the implementation of the white paper,” said SACF chairwoman Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha in a statement.
“This would not have been possible without all critical role players being able to make some concessions on their individual positions in the national interest. We commend all parties and for their foresight and commitment,” she said in the statement. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media