Communications regulator Icasa on Friday took a major step forward in licensing radio frequency spectrum for 4G and 5G broadband services, publishing a new invitation to apply (ITA) to the industry.
This comes as Icasa moves to hold a spectrum auction, possibly as soon as the end of the first quarter of 2022, following years of legal wrangling and delays.
The regulator has set auction reserve prices that will yield a minimum of R8-billion for the national fiscus, it said.
The final ITA will be published in the Government Gazette on Friday and comes after three months of intensive consultation with the telecommunications industry aimed at preventing the matter being taken on legal review, as happened with the previous ITA, published in 2020, which was set aside by the high court.
“In framing the current ITA, the authority has considered the issues raised by stakeholders in their challenge to the previous licensing processes (particularly the 2020 ITA), as well as the representations received to the first and second Information Memorandums (IMs),” Icasa said in a statement.
“The publication of the first and second IM was done to ensure that stakeholders have a clearer preview of the intended licensing process and associated licensing conditions — and be afforded the opportunity to make representations to the authority on what the final licensing process and conditions should entail. The authority is grateful for the representations received, and has fully considered those views in their entirety,” said Icasa chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng.
“In addressing competition concerns in respect of the 2020 ITA, along with all the issues raised in the subsequent consultations through the two IMs, the authority has provided for the auction design (in the ITA) to include, among other provisions, spectrum floors and spectrum caps, an opt-in round, and spectrum-sharing provisions,” Icasa said.
“These provisions are designed to facilitate the entry of new players into the market, and to promote consumer welfare through access to high-quality communication services at affordable and competitive prices.”
Icasa intends to license several bands, including those at 700MHz and 800MHz still being used for analogue and digital television broadcasts — the so-called digital dividend bands.
To deal with this fairly, Icasa will make available the status of the coverage maps of those bands in collaboration with the department of communications & digital technologies before the commencement of the auction.
“Should the digital migration process not be completed by the time the auction is concluded, the authority will apply proportional payment formulae for the 700MHz and 800MHz bands,” it explained.
Applications for the ITA close at 4pm on 31 January 2022. Qualifying bidders will be announced on 21 February 2022, while the auction phase is scheduled to start on 8 March 2022. – © 2021 NewsCentral Media