Shortly after the announcement that South Africa would go into lockdown, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) began fielding applications for spectrum.

Before you get too excited, this spectrum is temporary and is meant to assist mobile network operators with expanding connectivity.

As far as bands are concerned, the temporary spectrum sits in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2 300MHz, 2 600MHz and 3 500MHz bands. Television White Spaces also formed part of this temporary availability.

700/800MHz bands

The first band up for discussion is the 700MHz and 800MHz bands. Icasa notes that these bands are still being used by analogue and digital television broadcasting. As such, Icasa had to be smart about how these bands were assigned.

“Sharing and co-existence in these frequency bands would have to be implemented systematically through a geographic separation of International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT) Systems and Broadcasting Services in affected areas in accordance with the updated 2013 Terrestrial Broadcasting Frequency Plan as published,” explains Icasa.

As for assignment, Telkom, Vodacom and MTN have all been temporarily assigned 40MHz in the aforementioned bands.

2300MHz band

Telkom and Vodacom are the only two operators assigned spectrum in the 2 300MHz band. Telkom has been assigned 20MHz in addition to the 60MHz it already has. Vodacom has been granted 20MHz temporarily.

2600MHz band

Here Icasa notes that there was only 170MHz of available spectrum in this band.

Despite this, mobile networks have been granted temporary spectrum in the band.

Telkom has been assigned 40MHz, Vodacom gets 50MHz as does MTN and RAIN Networks has been assigned an additional 30MHz.

3500MHz band

This is the big one. The 3500MHz band is sort of the golden boy of 5G. While we don’t expect 5G to be rolling out anytime soon, we suspect it will be perfect for 4G.

Given this spectrum is limited (only 116MHz are available) the amount network operators have been granted is low.

Telkom has been assigned 12MHz of the 32MHz it applied for. Icasa says this is because Telkom already has 28MHz in the band and the additional 12MHz will “afford it adequate capacity spectrum to meet the demand occasioned by the pandemic during this period.”

MTN was also only granted a portion of the spectrum it applied for. MTN will receive 50MHz of the 70MHz it applied for.

Liquid Telecom has been assigned 4MHz but also already has 56MHz in the band.

It appears as if Vodacom has received all 50MHz it applied for.

TVWS

Firstly, it’s actually happening.

Icasa received applications for the use of television white spaces (TVWS) in the 470 – 694MHz band from Mthinte Communications, Levin Global and Morai Solutions.

There are stipulations to this spectrum being awarded. For one the firms will have to obtain approval from Icasa for the equipment being used.

“The applicant must obtain approval from the CSIR, in conjunction with the Authority, with respect to Geo-Location Secondary Database (GLSD) connectivity for compliance with the use of TVWS in South Africa,” said Icasa.

The authority has also said that should the technology interfere with existing broadcasts, services should be terminated immediately and the authority should be notified.

We hope that with this additional spectrum, communication issues throughout the country can be addressed in some regard.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]