Icasa to take back Covid-19 emergency spectrum

Source: Tech Financials

South Africa’s operators to give back temporary radio frequency spectrum assignments. ICASA, the country’s communications watchdog, said today that it has resolved that the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to licensees will now have to be returned by no later 30 November 2021.

According to MyBroadband, South Africa faces a form of “digital load-shedding” if the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) follows through on its plan to take back temporary radio frequency spectrum on 30 November.

This was the stark warning from MTN SA’s executive for corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the amount of data traffic that MTN has needed to carry for its customers has more than doubled,” O’Sullivan said.

The temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited ITA during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster, which in turn was occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ICASA has since twice extended the duration of the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment, with the last expiry date being 31 August 2021.

ICASA has inter alia taken account of the current environment in relation to the number of infections, the gradual reopening of the economy and the steady progress in the vaccination programme.

More importantly, the Authority is mindful of the need to focus its efforts on the permanent licensing of spectrum.

However, it is important that the industry be allowed adequate time to plan and adjust its operations.

‘‘The Authority’s interventions with regards to the release of the temporary radio frequency spectrum have indeed contributed immensely to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensuring that South Africans were, and continue to be, able to communicate during these unprecedented times. However, the Authority cannot allow the temporary spectrum assignment to assume a state of permanence,” chairperson of ICASA, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, said.

Dr Modimoeng further says that, having allowed operators to use the temporarily assigned spectrum for a period of seventeen months, it is reasonable that they be allowed a further three months until 30 November 2021 as a sufficient winding down period.

“In order to allow the licensees to wind down their operations on the temporary spectrum, and to notify consumers about the impact thereof (if any) on their service offerings, the Authority has resolved to amend the COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations to provide for continued use of the temporary radio frequency spectrum licences for the period ending 30 November 2021.”


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