The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) hosted a successful auction of high-demand radio spectrum and is now moving quickly to assign this precious resource to the successful bidders.
“ICASA should be commended for hosting a successful and long-awaited spectrum,” says Dominic Cull, regulatory advisor to the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA). “Unfortunately, this success cannot be properly celebrated as a court challenge by Telkom set down for next month could still derail the realisation of the benefits to competition and consumers of more spectrum in the hands of operators.”
ISPA believes it is imperative the assigned spectrum is put into use as soon as possible by the winning bidders – which include Telkom – so the benefits of greater capacity and lower deployment costs can flow through an economy in dire need of job-creating, data-driven expansion.
Furthermore, many of ISPA’s members are keen to compete in selling mobile data, bringing innovation and lower prices as they have done for fixed data.
As the incumbent operators are on record as stating that limited access to scarce spectrum is the primary reason they cannot provide resale opportunities to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), ISPA also looks forward to developments in this regard.
After announcing the six qualified bidders for the spectrum auction licensing process at the end of February, ICASA held the auction this month and raised R14,4-billion for the public purse.
The current pandemic perfectly demonstrated that remote access to high-speed data boosts real-world quality of life. Going forward, South Africa needs a post-Covid future with a much lower cost to communicate thanks to mobile network operators getting access to the spectrum that powers our connected lives.
By obtaining more spectrum, mobile operators can provide better coverage and better services. The mobile networks have long and publicly stated that they are unable to reduce the cost of mobile data significantly until they receive this spectrum. The Competition Commission has previously said that it will be keeping a close eye on whether they keep their promises.