The Competition Commission plans to engage with communications regulator Icasa on the planned licensing of 4G/LTE and future 5G spectrum to ensure there is “not only universal coverage but also (affordable) access”.
In a statement on Friday following the publication last week by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams of a policy direction to Icasa on spectrum licensing and the creation of a wholesale open-access network (Woan), the commission said it’s important that operators that are given spectrum be required to provide “a level of universal affordability and not just technical availability”.
It said there is a “unique opportunity to bring about lower data costs both now and in the future”.
“High-demand spectrum is a scarce national resource and its allocation should be done in a manner which ultimately benefits the citizens of the country.”
It said any licensing process should consider obligations on recipients of spectrum to “ensure affordable data prices immediately” and how “relative allocations between operators may shape competition going forward into new-generation networks such as 5G”.
It should also include “measures to ensure the commercial and competitive success of the Woan, avoiding some of the difficulties faced by other late entrants, as well as appropriate regulatory oversight of that entity”.
“The commission particularly welcomes the prioritisation that has been afforded the licensing of spectrum by the new administration given that the current lack of spectrum raises network costs and is one factor that contributes to high data prices.
“The commission also welcomes the announcement that the spectrum licensing process will include measures to promote competition, transformation, inclusive growth of the sector and universal access. At a time when public finances are under such pressure, it is tempting to try maximise revenues by simply auctioning spectrum to the highest bidder.” — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media