The Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa (ISPA) has urged ICASA and other role-players to recognise the opportunity afforded by the availability of digital dividend spectrum and the importance of assigning spectrum licences in a manner which is optimal for growth and development in South Africa.
The digital dividend spectrum will be freed up when South African broadcasters complete their migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television. This prime spectrum around the 700MHz and 800MHz bands is particularly suitable for the deployment of high-speed broadband services using technologies such as LTE and even 4G.
Dominic Cull, ISPA's regulatory advisor, says the organisation believes the digital dividend offers ICASA a powerful tool to spur new competition in the broadband market and thereby drive down prices and improve market penetration.
“ISPA is heartened at the recognition by ICASA in its recently-released Corporate Strategy of the central importance of broadband to the building of an information society, and it is obvious that for the majority of South Africa’s population broadband services will be delivered wirelessly.”
Before decisions can be made about the use of digital dividend spectrum for the delivery of broadband services, however, ICASA needs to ensure that use is made of all available spectrum and whether more than just the 790-852MHz band needs to included in the dividend to be made available to broadband and other providers.
“The single most important task facing the Department of Communications and ICASA at this stage is to complete an audit of spectrum usage below 1GHz so that decisions about the size of the digital dividend can be properly informed,” says Cull. “Spectrum management in South Africa remains significantly under-developed and will remain so until this fundamental uncertainty has been dealt with.”
ISPA believes that the recent Digital Dividend Workshop convened by ICASA signals that the regulator intends to take an inclusive approach but also revealed that a great deal of work is required before the dividend can be realised.
“It became clear at the workshop that the incumbent operators wish to perpetuate existing licensing patterns and for the 2,6GHz auction to be further delayed so as to allow them to bid for licences in both that band and the digital dividend band. It was accordingly refreshing to note Vodacom’s call for the development of a single national open access wireless network and ISPA believes more thought needs to be given to creative notions of this kind.”