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SA regulator publishes draft plans for radio frequency spectrum

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South Africa's telecom regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), has published a draft radio frequency migration plan (RFMP) and a draft International Mobile Telecommunication roadmap (IMT-R) for public consultation.

According to ICASA, these draft documents aim to ensure proper alignment and coordination of the allocation and assignment of radio frequency spectrum in South Africa.

"The Draft RFMP is required to bring the South African National Radio Frequency Plan (NRFP) in line with the Final Acts of the World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC-23), and in turn, with the latest Resolutions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations," the regulator said in a statement.

Moreover, the regulator explained that the draft RFMP sets out changes and requirements for specific radio communications frequency spectrum, including those identified for IMT – such as spectrum used by mobile licensees in South Africa – and taking into consideration the 2013 and 2019 RFMPs.

IMT Roadmap out for public comment

In addition to the RFMP, the South African regulator also published an IMT roadmap for public comment, citing that the draft IMT-R deals specifically with its proposals for allocating and assigning spectrum earmarked for mobile services and identified IMT systems.

"The draft IMT-R aims to ensure alignment with the prescripts of the National Radio Frequency Plan (NRFP) of 2021, the Final Acts of WRC-23 and the ITU's Radio Regulations," the regulator continued.

"In recent years, mobile broadband services have emerged as the most popular solution for the advancement of broadband technologies and related communication services, thereby encouraging the Authority to put in place critical steps and responses to national expectations, through the IMT Roadmap which was last updated in 2019," said Cathrine Mushi, ICASA acting chair.

These draft documents aim to help coordinate the allocation and assignment of radio frequency spectrum in South Africa.  (Source: wirestock on Freepik)
These draft documents aim to help coordinate the allocation and assignment of radio frequency spectrum in South Africa.
(Source: wirestock on Freepik)

ICASA added that among other provisions in the National Radio Frequency Plan of 2021 is the incorporation of globally harmonized frequency bands in the low, mid and high ranges identified for IMT systems.

Broadband for all

ICASA said the key driver for the deployment of IMT radio frequency spectrum bands is the need to ensure that mobile broadband plays its role in meeting the vision of "Broadband for All" encapsulated in the SA Connect and the National Development Plan 2030.

In September 2023, the South African government said it planned to spend R3 billion (US$158 million at the time) by 2025 on its "SA Connect" project, which aims to connect the country's government municipalities, healthcare facilities and schools to the Internet.

SA Connect has been on the cards since 2013, but progress has been slow on the country's plans to provide universal access to broadband services for all South Africans, prioritizing rural and underserved areas.

The project – supported by state-owned entities such as the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), Broadband Infraco and Sentech – aims to connect 5.8 million sites to high-speed Internet by 2025/2026, as part of phase two of the rollout.

Back in February 2023, former Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni promised that the SA Connect program would also roll out 14,024 community Wi-Fi hotspots across 16 districts in the 2023-2024 financial year, with another 19,515 community Wi-Fi hotspots in 36 districts planned for the 2024-2025 financial year.

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*Top image source: pelegraphy on Pixabay.

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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