Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

4G/5G

SA releases emergency spectrum for COVID-19 broadband demand

Article Image
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is releasing emergency spectrum to meet the spike in broadband services demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa is now on day 12 of a 21-day government-enforced lockdown attempting to reduce the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus in the county.

As of Tuesday, South Africa had 1,686 confirmed cases and 12 deaths. Globally, Reuters had counted over 1.3 million infections and 74,087 deaths, while 273,736 people had already recovered from the virus.

ICASA said it had published a Government Gazette containing regulations aimed at easing the burden of regulatory compliance for the sector during the national state of disaster declared by SA President Cyril Ramaphosa. The regulations also aim to enable the sector to meet increased demand for ICT services during this period.

One critical measure introduced is the temporary release of high-demand spectrum (HDS) for the duration of the national state of disaster in order to ease network congestion, maintain good quality of broadband services, and enable licensees to lower cost of access to consumers.

ICASA will make temporary spectrum available in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2300MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands. Licensees will be required to submit their applications to the Authority by Thursday, April 9, 2020.

The emergency spectrum will only be available until three months after the national state of disaster ends, or at the latest until November 30, 2020. Fees for the spectrum will be waived but if operators continue to use it beyond the end date they could face fines of R100,000 (US$5,450) per day.

"It is of critical importance to note that the emergency release of this spectrum does not, in any way whatsoever, negate the processes that are currently underway for permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction, the process which the Authority had committed to finalise by the end of 2020; as well as the assignment of spectrum to be set aside for the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) due for completion next year," said ICASA acting chairperson, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, in an emailed statement.

South Africa's mobile operators have been waiting for many years for high-demand radio frequency spectrum to be released by the government. Telcos have until now been forced to refarm 2G and 3G spectrum to provide 4G services, while plans for 5G have almost remained theoretical without access to the correct spectrum.

However, as Modimoeng mentioned, there is light at the end of the tunnel after ICASA in November 2019 published an Information Memorandum outlining its plans for the licensing process for spectrum for both 4G and 5G services.

"The Authority will take all measures necessary to ensure that the permanent licensing process for HDS is expedited. In this regard, the Authority is sensitive to the fact that the emergency release of the spectrum to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, should neither delay nor undermine processes to license the spectrum on a permanent basis," ICASA reiterated in its statement.

ICASA acting chairperson Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng.
ICASA acting chairperson Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng.

5G fake news
ICASA also shot down fake news circulating that 5G rollouts are responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The Authority confirms that type-approved electronic communications facilities provided in the country adhere to the prescribed standards and that there is no evidence that they pose any health risks to the country and/or its citizens," it said.

Last week South African Health Minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, also spoke out against the rumors that 5G radios are in some way responsible for the coronavirus, calling this idea "fake news."

"The reality is that 5G is a technology, and coronavirus is an organic infection that is based on a living viral agent. The coronavirus is not something that you can link to any technology," Mkhize said.

On the weekend, UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, also came out against conspiracy theories calling them "dangerous nonsense." This comes after radio network masts were reportedly set ablaze in several locations in the UK, including the cities of Birmingham and Liverpool.

Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Africa can leverage GenAI for economic growth – Microsoft

A whitepaper on generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) and the future of work has found that the African continent, with its young population, can leverage AI to drive economic growth.

Registration opens for Africa Tech Festival 2024

Registration has opened for the 2024 edition of Africa Tech Festival, the continent's leading platform for technology innovators, specialists and thought leaders.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Sponsored video

More videos

Follow us on X

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Upcoming events

Cyber Revolution Summit
August 9, 2024
Gaborone, Botswana
Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.

Story

The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.

Story

Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Guest Perspectives

Story

How e-mobility could transform Africa's transport sector

By Francis Hook

ICT analyst Francis Hook delves into Africa's e-mobility sector and unpacks the challenges faced locally and the benefits the move to electric vehicles could bring to urban transport systems.

Story

Omdia View: April 2024

By Omdia Analysts

April 2024's telecoms highlights in the Middle East and Africa included a license for Starlink in Ghana, new mobile termination rates in Ethiopia, and 6G trials in Bahrain – that and more in the latest Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up
Tag id test-002