The day we’ve all been waiting for is less than 24 hours away.

That day is the opening of the invitiation to apply for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) spectrum.

In total there is 406MHz of spectrum up for auction, though successful bids will carry a number of obligations. This includes support for mobile virtual network operators and support of WOAN through procurement of a minimum 30 percent national capacity.

While we had hoped that this spectrum auction would address the problem of competition (or rather the lack thereof) in the local market, Icasa has highlighted that this exercise is being done to expand the market.

“This means that the national and sub-national wholesalers are taken into consideration in terms of the spectrum to be awarded and the new players are able to partake in this process,” said Icasa chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

“The Authority has noted with concern the wholesale and retail competition issues in South Africa. However, this licensing process is not expected to solve the wholesale and retail competition concerns. The Authority is keenly aware of the need to prevent the spectrum award from worsening the competition concerns in mobile markets identified by the Authority through other processes. This will be done by imposing appropriate obligations and spectrum caps,” the chairperson added.

To that end Icasa will be imposing spectrum floors for new players in the market.

These floors will cap spectrum at 2x21MHz for sub 1GHz bands and an overall spectrum cap of 184MHz.

Lot Number/s Lot Category Lot Size Number of lots available Reserve price per lot
1 – 4 700MHz 2 x 5MHz 4 R526 615 392.49
5 – 8 800MHz 2 x 5MHz 4 R752 307 703.55
9 800MHz 2 x 10MHz 1 R1 155 174 976.66
10 – 24 2600MHz 1 x 10MHz 14 R97 843 320.52
25 3500MHz 1 x 2MHz 1 R9 818 987.30
26 – 33 3500MHz 1 x 10MHz 8 R75 606 202.22
34 3500MHz 1 x 4MHz 1 R19 637 974.60

As for the WOAN, the following spectrum has been set aside:

  • IMT700 – 1 x 20MHz
  • IMT2600 – 1 x 30MHz
  • IMT3500 – 1 x 30MHz

“In support to the viability of the WOAN the Authority has imposed a 30 percent national capacity uptake obligation for the successful licensees that are to be assigned the radio frequency spectrum through the IMT auction licensing process. The successful
licensees shall procure a minimum of 30% national capacity from the WOAN collectively as soon as the WOAN is operational for a period of seven years. The 30 percent national capacity to be procured from the WOAN will be shared proportionally amongst the successful licensees based on the amount of spectrum acquired from the Auction by each successful licensee,” Modimoeng said.

Other obligations include coverage obligations depending on the lot acquired by a firm. This coverage is specifically for under-serviced areas with some coverage goals being as high as 95 percent within five years of the license being issued.

As for the 2300MHz band, that auction has been put on hold pending a feasibility study.

The invitation to apply for both the IMT and WOAN spectrum opens on 2nd October and with a closing date of 28th December 2020 for IMT spectrum and 30th March 2021 for WOAN spectrum.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]