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 telcos must start paying for COVID temporary spectrum

Article Image
South Africa's telecoms regulator says that local operators will have to start paying for temporary spectrum given to them for free during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) released the free emergency spectrum in five different bands for the duration of South Africa's national state of disaster as a way to help operators meet the spike in broadband services demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in a statement emailed to Connecting Africa, ICASA chairperson Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng said that all licensees who have been assigned temporary spectrum and wish to continue using it will now need to pay the prescribed radio frequency spectrum license fees.

ICASA did not specify exactly how much these fees will cost, but a notice published in March 2020 listed new radio frequency spectrum license fees as being R2,555 ($167.40) per MHz paired from April 1, 2020.

ICASA has confirmed that it will hold an auction for high demand spectrum in March 2021, so it has extended the validity period of the temporary spectrum until March 31, 2021. Initially the temporary spectrum was supposed to be returned by today (November 30, 2020).

"We are aware that licensees generated and reported revenue growth during this period. We have therefore resolved that, in addition to fulfilment of the obligations imposed with the release of temporary spectrum, the extended use of spectrum must be at a fee as provided for in the amended regulations," said Modimoeng.

This after SA's operators saw big traffic growth and revenue upticks during the pandemic as more people worked and studied from home.

Telkom South Africa's mobile data traffic grew 81% over the past six months and mobile data revenue increasing by 53.8%, to R6 billion (US$386 million).

Similarly, Vodacom's data traffic in SA surged up 86% for the six months ended September 30, 2020 and SA service revenue grew 7.1%.

Awaiting auction

South Africa's operators have for many years complained that they need more spectrum and have been waiting for the government to issue more for 4G and 5G rollout.

In 2005, Vodacom and MTN received some 2.1GHz spectrum for their 3G rollout, and Cell C was allocated spectrum in 2011. Since then, operators have had to refarm 3G spectrum to facilitate the rollout of 4G to consumers.

ICASA's chairperson, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng
ICASA's chairperson, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng

In October ICASA published the Invitation To Apply (ITA) for spectrum for both the planned Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) and individual spectrum for operators.

The ITA was supposed to be issued by the end of June 2020 but it was delayed. The auction was supposed to happen by the end of December 2020, but this was pushed to March 2021.

In fact, the auction was first announced back in 2016 but had to be put on hold because of a legal spat between what was then the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and the regulator.

ICASA said it will be running virtual workshops from December 9 to 11 to unpack the requirements of the WOAN. The closing date for applications for the spectrum auction is December 28, 2020 and for the WOAN is March 30, 2021.

"We believe that the workshops and the responses will go a long way in providing clarity for all interested stakeholders and ensure that the process is fully understood and give effect to procedural fairness and administrative justice," added Modimoeng.

Related posts:

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Google's Equiano subsea cable lands on SA shores

Google’s Equiano subsea cable, which seeks to connect Europe to Africa via the ocean, has made its final stop landing in Melkbosstrand, Western Cape, South Africa.

Story

Women in Tech: Spotlight on legal tech with Life.file's Sinal Govender

Life.file co-founder, Sinal Govender, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and how we can encourage more young girls to enter the legal tech field.

More Innovation hub

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Women in Tech: Spotlight on inclusivity with Digital Council Africa's Juanita Clark

Digital Council Africa founder and CEO, Juanita Clark, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and what needs to be done to make the tech industry intentionally inclusive.

Story

Women in Tech: Spotlight on legal tech with Life.file's Sinal Govender

Life.file co-founder, Sinal Govender, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and how we can encourage more young girls to enter the legal tech field.

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.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Partner perspectives

5G is lighting up the future of North Africa
By Chris Meng, VP of Huawei Northern Africa Carrier Business Department

The moving target that is telecoms fraud
By Clémentine Fournier, Regional VP Sales, Africa, BICS

How mobile operators in Africa can address signalling threats and secure the network
By Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud and Security at BICS

All Partner Perspectives

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: June 2022

By Omdia Analysts

5G was the major news trend across Africa in June, as Orange became the first operator to launch 5G in Réunion and operators in Senegal accelerated their 5G plans despite spectrum delays.

Story

Omdia View: May 2022

By Omdia Analysts

SpaceX-owned Starlink's plans to launch a satellite broadband service in Africa was a major highlight in May 2022, says Omdia's analysts.

More Guest Perspectives

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival
November 7-11, 2022
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Archived webinars

Africa Green ICT: Lighting Up a Sustainable Continent

The ICT industry is the leading industry in the commitment to carbon neutrality, whose focus has shifted from setting ambitious targets to taking initiatives. The push for zero-carbon and for green energy development, it isn't just about CSR – it's also good for sustainable business.

The path to sustainable development requires green energy. Governments are looking at potential policy approaches to make green energy more widely available and affordable. Without sustainable energy, there will be no digital transformation and no chance of making Africa more economically competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Africa Green ICT Webinar 2022 will bring together ICT industry leaders and senior industrial analysts to provide insight, best practices and key learnings on how to achieve zero-carbon targets and practice green development in Africa.

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Flash poll

All polls

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up