ICASA reveals WiMAX spectrum plans

24 Jul 2009

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has published draft regulations which outline the procedures and criteria for granting spectrum licences to operators, mybroadband.co.za reports. The plan sees a move away from handing out 20MHz to each licensee, instead four operators will be allocated 30MHz each in the 2.6GHz band. The spectrum licence will be technology-neutral and in-band migration will be employed where needed. Meanwhile, in the 3.5GHz band ICASA plans to award licences covering specific geographic catchment areas, with each operator receiving a maximum of 28MHz of spectrum per region.

The regulator also announced that it had determined that in cases where the licensed radio spectrum remains unused for a considerable amount of time a principle of ‘use it or lose it’ will apply. This could affect operators such as Sentech, which received a concession for 50MHz of spectrum in the 2.6GHz band in 2007, but has yet to complete the deployment of its national WiMAX network. Companies such as Internet Solutions and MWEB have indicated that they are ready to deploy WiMAX networks if they could acquire the appropriate spectrum.

ICASA also revealed that future tenders will be judged by seven criteria, including, company structure, participation in the country’s black economic empowerment (BEE) programme, proposed consumer benefits and the company’s track record in the industry. However, a number of restrictions as to who can apply to obtain frequency were also announced: a company cannot be an affiliate or hold more than 5% in another applicant in the same band; a company cannot have already been granted a licence in the designated band; and an applicant can not have less than 30% direct BEE ownership.