JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s telecoms networks Vodacom and MTN have welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment that the broadband spectrum allocation process would begin in the next 30 days.

Ramaphosa said within the coming month, the Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams would issue a policy directive to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to commence the spectrum licencing process.

“This process will include measures to promote competition, transformation, inclusive growth of the sector and universal access,” said Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation address last week.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said on Friday that the most significant obstacle to reducing input costs and, by extension, data prices was the fact that no new spectrum had been allocated in South Africa in the past 14 years.

Kennedy said the process was a vital part of further bringing down the cost of data in South Africa.

“Vodacom has implemented a pricing transformation strategy to bring down the prices of its data services, especially for poorer consumers. This resulted in effective prices coming down by 34percent during the 12 months ended March 2019 and 57percent during the 36 months ended March 2019,” Kennedy said.

The government has been calling on the telecoms industry to further bring down the cost of data so that it is in line with other countries.

“Wherever we have gone young people have continuously raised the issue of the excessive high data costs in South Africa,” Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

In April the Competition Commission found that MTN and Vodacom were charging South Africans more for data compared to other countries.

MTN and Vodacom have been leading the call for the government to proceed with the spectrum auction to help increase internet speeds and increase their revenue streams.

MTN spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan said on Friday that the group would work with Ndabeni-Abrahams and Icasa to support the much-anticipated start of the process.

“At MTN, we are confident we will be able to introduce further and significant reductions to the cost of data, when we are able to access 4G and 5G spectrum,” said O’Sullivan, adding that spectrum allocation would help generate new jobs.

“MTN SA has spent more than R50billion in the last five years in capital investments and we would continue to invest in South Africa’s growth on the back of this 4G and 5G access,” she said.

Ramaphosa previously has promised swift action regarding spectrum allocation as part of the government’s economic recovery plan. To underscore the urgent need for spectrum, Icasa also announced last October plans to license spectrum “by no later than the end of March 2019”.

BUSINESS REPORT