ICT Consultant comments on South Africa's new spectrum guidelines

31 July 2019 Consultancy.co.za 2 min. read
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Following the launch of policy guidelines relating to broadband spectrums by the government of South Africa, Dobek Pater of information and communications technology consultancy Africa Analysis has highlighted a certain degree of ambiguity in the directives, leaving many key decisions in the hands of the regulatory bodies.  

The body in question, when it comes to the broadband spectrum, is the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which was established in 200 with the specific objective of keeping a check of the expansive telecom and broadcasting sectors in South Africa.

In 2014, ICASA proposed a strategy to contend with the spectrum in South Africa. At the time, the government rejected ICASA’s proposal due to disagreements over certain guidelines that offered preferential regulations. Now the government has released its own set of proposed guidelines.

Nevertheless, deriving from Pater's comments in Tech Central, the government’s guidelines not only leave a substantial amount of decision-making in the hands of ICASA, but also appear similar to the proposal put forth by the regulatory body half a decade ago. Pater is the Director of Business Development at market research and consulting firm Africa Analysis.

Dobek Pater - Africa Analysis

Under the new guidelines, a new wholesale open-access network (WOAN) will be given priority in its access to the spectrum, with the specific objective of promoting a competitive environment in the country’s telecom sector. According to pater, this has been in the works for some time now.

“It has been government’s intention for the past several years and I don’t think it would completely abandon the idea. However, the idea of the Woan has evolved and is not as rigid as it was previously. Nonetheless, important questions remain,” said Pater, commenting on the ambiguity.

“I suspect Icasa will take its cue from the CSIR report regarding the high-demand spectrum necessary for a Woan. Whatever is left, it will then see how best to structure a number of spectrum blocks to assign to other operators. This may be (and probably will be) done in the form of an auction,” he added.

Meanwhile, top telecom providers such as MTN and Vodacom – which have proven to be some of the most valuable brands in South Africa – are set to have exclusive access to certain portions of the spectrum, conditional to the agreement of some terms that are laid down in the new guidelines.