ICASA calls on govt to auction spectrum

Published Feb 16, 2016


Cape Town - South Africa must approve the auction of radio spectrum to mobile-network operators so they can roll out high-speed broadband services across the country and help boost economic growth, the telecommunications regulator said.

“Everybody we have spoken to wants the auction,” Pakamile Pongwana, chief executive officer of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, said in an interview in Cape Town on Tuesday. “Every 10 percent increase in broadband connectivity leads to about a 1 percent growth in GDP. The further we fall behind in rolling out broadband, the lower our GDP growth will be.”

South Africa’s four mobile-network operators, Vodacom Group, MTN Group, Cell C and Telkom, have asked the government to release the spectrum so they can roll out high-speed broadband services to more customers and increase revenue. The ruling African National Congress has pledged to extend broadband access to every household by the end of the decade.

Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele has to approve the auction policy before it can be conducted by ICASA, Pongwana said. Siyabulela Qoza, a spokesman for the telecommunications ministry, couldn’t immediately comment when contacted by phone.

South Africa is one of the world’s stragglers in Internet access with just 3.21 fixed-line broadband subscribers per 100 people in 2014 compared with 11.46 in Brazil, 30.37 in the US and 29.31 in Japan, according to figures compiled by the World Bank.

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The spectrum must be distributed by auction in order to ensure a fair competition, Pongwana said.

“An auction is the most transparent means of allocating spectrum,” he said. “Previously spectrum has either been allocated to operators by law or by a beauty contest,” often leading to legal battles, he said.

Should Cwele approve the auction process, ICASA would like to see it take place before the year-end, Pongwana said.


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