SA’s 2 biggest mobile operators have welcomed the decision that spectrum be licensed to both the Wireless Open Access Network and the industry.
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s two biggest mobile operators have welcomed the government’s decision that spectrum be licensed to both the Wireless Open Access Network (Woan) and the industry. 

The cabinet last week said that it had approved the outcome of the commissioned study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which sought to determine the amount of spectrum for open access and licensing to the industry.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said the group is looking forward to seeing both the CSIR report and the amended Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) bill before commenting further on both matters. “Vodacom welcomes the principle of co-existence between Mobile Network Operators and the proposed Woan that has emerged from the CSIR study,” Kennedy said.

The government said the decision will among others achieve the national policy obligations, cost of communication, remove the entry barriers for the small and medium companies, and sustain the current investments. The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, is expected to fully unpack the CSIR report soon.

South Africa’s telecommunications market has been bogged down by spectrum scarcity issues for years. The delays in spectrum allocation by the government has been a nuisance for mobile operators for years. To address the bottlenecks, the telecommunications ministry commissioned the CSIR to conduct a study to investigate the spectrum needs of a sustainable Woan and how much would be left over for private companies.

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Jacqui O’Sullivan, the executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa, said the company needed more information.

“While we welcome the latest developments in the cabinet that bring closer the possible licensing of the much needed high demand spectrum,” O’Sullivan said, “MTN cannot comment on the contents of the ECA Amendment Bill nor the CSIR study until such time that they are available in the public domain.”

The ECA sought to implement and give effect to the policy objectives set out in the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper made public in late 2016. It makes provision for spectrum allocation and rapid deployment policy.

In 2016, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Cwele prevailed in his bid to stymie a planned radio frequency spectrum auction by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

Ofentse Dazela, a director for pricing research at Africa Analysis, said the government’s decision will bring stability and much-needed progress in the telecoms sector.

“This development means that they will continue to aggressively expand their next-generation networks on a more national scale, a scenario will continue to position these operators as formidable players in the mobile market,” Dazela said.

Meanwhile, Cell C said it was still reviewing and calculating the effect of the draft call termination regulations on its business.