Sentech’s contract that permitted Screamer Telecoms, a wireless Internet access provider, to use the state-owned company’s spectrum to provide WiMax services would have been allowed under new draft regulations proposed by the telecommunications regulator.
The Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa’s) recently released draft spectrum regulations in terms of which companies will be able to lease spectrum they have been allocated.
Sentech has come under fire for allowing Screamer to use its spectrum since spectrum trading is not permitted currently. New Sentech chairman Quraysh Patel has described the agreement between the two companies, which has since expired, as “unlawful”.
Screamer had been using 10MHz of Sentech’s spectrum in the 2,6GHz band. The latter has a generous 50MHz of spectrum in the band.
Documentation shows Sentech tried to can the contract. But Screamer continues to sell wireless Internet access. It’s not clear what spectrum the company is using.
Screamer CEO Gavin Hart hasn’t responded to requests for comment.
However, there is one big catch for companies hoping to lease their spectrum. They may not lease it for more than they paid for it originally.
The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) has welcomed the regulations, saying they will make more spectrum available.
“We are especially pleased to note the proposal to introduce spectrum trading and the sub-leasing of spectrum on a non-profit basis in SA,” says Ispa GM Ant Brooks.
However, the organisation is concerned that the new regulations will hold back the process of auctioning the remaining spectrum in the 2,6GHz band. The auction has already been postponed once.
Brooks says Ispa has appealed to Icasa not to allow the new draft regulations to delay the initiation of a fresh spectrum assignment because this is one of the best ways of promoting competition in telecoms.
“We are deeply disappointed with the lengthy and flawed process that Icasa has followed to date for spectrum assignment in this critical band. It is dispiriting for the industry when a critical regulatory process takes four years to come to fruition, only for the regulator to admit that its process was flawed in the first place,” says Brooks. — Candice Jones, TechCentral