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 operators can keep using COVID emergency spectrum, for now

Article Image
South Africa's telecom operators can use COVID-19 temporary radio frequency spectrum for another three months, but the local regulator says this temporary situation can't go on forever.

In April 2020, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) released the free temporary 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.

Originally the end date was November 2020 but this was extended and operators had to start paying for the use of the spectrum at the end of last year. The temporary offer was due to run out at the end of May 2021, but ICASA now says operators have until August 31, 2021, to use the temporary spectrum.

"The three-month extension affords an opportunity for all stakeholders to find a resolution to the spectrum litigation impasse. Unfortunately, at some stage we will not be able to continually extend these temporary spectrum assignments when a more permanent licensing route is struck through litigation," said ICASA chairperson Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng in a statement to the media.

In March, Telkom South Africa won a court interdict to stop the auction for 4G and 5G spectrum, which was supposed to kick off at the end of March. The authority is also facing legal challenges from MTN and broadcaster eTV.

"We need to come to the negotiations with well-meaning intentions, as soon as possible to resolve this ongoing legal stand-off. We cannot perpetuate a pandemic-specific temporary arrangement to a point where it amounts to a backdoor spectrum licensing regime.

"High-demand Spectrum ought to be licensed in a transparent and competitive manner; hence any other way is unjustifiable in the long run," Modimoeng added.


Want to know more about 4G and 5G in Africa? Check out our dedicated 4G/5G content channel here on Connecting Africa.


After years of delays, ICASA had planned to auction lots of spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands by no later than the end of March 2021. However, the whole process had to be halted once again due to court challenges.

For over a decade, South African operators have been forced to refarm their existing allocations of 2G and 3G spectrum in order to deploy 4G technology.

Vodacom and MTN have also launched 5G services using the temporary spectrum and have indicated that they will need permanent spectrum to keep these next-generation services going and to expand them in future.

Related posts:

Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Over 5K African SMBs graduate from Google's Hustle Academy

Around 5,300 small and midsized businesses (SMBs) from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have graduated from the Google Hustle Academy.

Story

Orange launches super-app 'Max it' for Africa

Telecoms operator Orange has launched its own super-app, called Max it, in five African countries with plans to roll it out across its operations in Africa and the Middle East.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Sponsored video

More videos

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

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: September 2023

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in September 2023 in the Middle East and Africa included more 5G spectrum licenses, vendor and operator strategies, and partnerships – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

Story

Omdia View: August 2023

By Omdia Analysts

Highlights in August 2023 in the Middle East and Africa included a commercial 5G launch from Ethio Telecom and the signing of a virtual wheeling agreement between Vodacom South Africa and Eskom – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up
Tag id I-0000192