Earlier this year, before lockdown and COVID-19 the State of the Nation Address took place and there was good news for connectivity.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that before the end of 2020 the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) would conclude the licensing of high demand spectrum via auction.

On Thursday Icasa sent out word that it was preparing to publish invitations to apply for both high demand spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN).

While Icasa has issued spectrum in recent months, that spectrum was issued temporarily. These invitations however would make spectrum allocation a bit more permanent.

“The ITA relating to the licensing of high demand spectrum will be published in accordance with the Radio Frequency Spectrum Regulations (RFSR), 2015, as amended, read with Section 31(3) of the Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005, as amended (‘ECA’) and the ITA for the WOAN will be published in accordance Regulation 7 of the RFSR read with Section 9(2) of the ECA,” Icasa stated.

While this is good news we are fully aware that until the auction is underway and spectrum is assigned, there is still a way to go before spectrum is assigned.

You may recall in 2016 Icasa issued a similar invitation to apply for spectrum after it faced a legal challenge from then Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele.

“The position of Government is that it is the custodian of spectrum which is a national and public resource and whose utilisation must benefit all the people of South Africa,” Cwele said in 2016.

This time around things appear to be a bit more methodical.

Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams published a policy on High Demand Spectrum and Policy Direction on the Licensing of a Wireless Open Access Network in 2019. In response and under the minister’s instruction, Icasa published the Information Memorandum for International Mobile Telecommunications Spectrum Assignment last year.

The authority has said that the, because of the complexity of the process of developing these invitations to apply, it’s taking a bit longer to publish them.

It appears that Icasa hopes to avoid a legal challenge once again and as such it’s making sure it has all of its ducks in a row before publishing the invitations to apply.

“The Authority remains committed to its plans of releasing spectrum, that will see different sectors of the society benefitting, and participating meaningfully in the digital economy. This, we are doing, in order to ensure business development, promote investment, stimulate economic growth, and indeed promote good quality broadband services, as well as enable licensees to lower cost of communications in South Africa,” acting chairperson for Icasa, Dimakatso Qocha, said in a statement.

We now await news on the publication of the WOAN and high-demand spectrum invitations to apply.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]