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

Moya super app takes aim at SA fintech market

Super app Moya's fintech platform, MoyaPay, aims to be South Africa's most widely used mobile money payments platform.

Story

Hot startup of the month: Kenya's Shamba Pride

This month's hot startup, Shamba Pride, wants to revolutionize the rural agricultural trade ecosystem in Kenya by transforming agro-dealers into franchised 'DigiShops.'

More Innovation hub

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: April 2022

By Omdia Analysts

This month's Omdia View highlights indicate a shift to digital transformation and operational consolidation to maximize return on investments.

Story

Omdia View: March 2022

By Omdia Analysts

This month's Omdia summary of the biggest stories in the Middle East and Africa focuses on SA's spectrum auction and new submarine cables landing in Kenya and Togo.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Flash poll

All polls

Latest video

More videos

Archived webinars

Boosting Customer Experience in the Digital Age

From the first interaction to the last payment: convert leads into clients, drive loyalty and grow your bottom line.

The digital age has ushered in a new era of customer engagement. Consumer demands and expectations are higher than ever – where an affordable but seamless online experience is now the norm.

At a time when competition for your customers is fierce, ensuring a client journey that is tailored to their needs has never been more important. The ability to build these bespoke offerings starts with understanding, and that understanding is built on data.

This webinar will explore how gathering insight is key to growing and retaining a strong customer base; we’ll unpack how CRM platforms, mobile payment, lead capture, and online marketing are key factors in building a successful 21st Century digital business.

  • Customer Experience – understanding consumer expectations of today
  • What easy steps can you take to provide a complete, immersive digital customer experience?
  • How to leverage modern digital tools to build customer loyalty

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

AfricaCom perspectives

Story

Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

Story

Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Story

How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up