THE INDEPENDENT Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is scheduled to auction high demand spectrum by no later than March, according to a timetable released on Friday.
Icasa said the new road map for the expedited licensing of the International Mobile Telecommunications spectrum, also known as high-demand spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (Woan) will result in the publication of the Invitation To Apply (ITA) in December this year.
Qualifying bidders are scheduled to be announced in February next year.
Icasa chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng appealed to stakeholders to accept the published timetable for both licensing processes to avoid unduly delaying the release of this much-needed economic stimulus input.
“We would like to urge all interested stakeholders to participate fully in this consultative engagement and to engage openly and robustly to ensure that no further impediments are placed in the way of the finalisation of this critical economic intervention,” said Modimoeng.
Icasa had previously announced plans to auction spectrum in March.
However, multiple court challenges by eMedia Holdings and Telkom delayed the process.
Spectrum relates to radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry for communication over the airwaves and is expected to reduce the cost of South Africa’s data costs.
In April last year, the communications authority assigned emergency temporary spectrum to telecoms operators to deal with network demand during the Covid-19 crisis.
Mobile operators are expected to return the emergency spectrum to Icasa by the end of next month.
Modimoeng said the schedule followed the consent order granted by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, last month which ended the litigation instituted against Icasa by partially stateowned Telkom and e.tv.
The court granted an order to review and set aside the authority’s decision to publish the ITA for both the high-demand spectrum and Woan.
The court further directed that the matter be referred to the authority for reconsideration.
“In framing the truncated timetable and road map, the authority was mindful of the need for the expedited licensing process to be completed with exigency while adhering to a comprehensive and transparent consultative process,” said Modimoeng.
The last time South Africa auctioned additional spectrum was over a decade ago with the National Treasury describing the delay in the additional spectrum allocation had been described as the single biggest constraint on the growth of the telecoms in the sector in the country and a bottleneck for broader economic growth.
Modimoeng said that Icasa was consulting stakeholders on key aspects pertaining to the expedited licensing process for high-demand spectrum and the Woan-including, among others, implications of the release of high-demand spectrum and licensing of the Woan on competition in the market, the radio frequency bands to be licensed, in view of the yet to be completed digital migration process and the nature and extent of obligations to be imposed.
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