The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has withdrawn its offer for telcos to apply for radio frequency spectrum licences in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands. In May the regulator released a set of guidelines regarding how it intends to grant spectrum licences in cases where there are competing applications, or when insufficient spectrum is available to accommodate demand. The deadline was initially set for 30 June, and later extended to 30 July.
Although no applications have actually been lodged to date, ICASA spokesperson Macia Socikwa explained that the regulator had been ‘inundated with correspondence from stakeholders seeking clarity on the finer details of the licensing processes’ since the publication of the final High Demand Spectrum Licence Regulations. Although the licences will be withdrawn and revised to take into account certain technological considerations, the existing regulations will be implemented as is.
The 2.6GHz band is intended to provide capacity for high-speed wireless broadband connectivity, and will permit the use of competing technologies – namely WiMAX and Long Term Evolution (LTE). Socikwa also noted that while WiMAX had been the clear favourite in the past, market sentiment towards LTE had increased dramatically. ICASA has also admitted that it is now seeking an overseas auctioneer to assist it with the ITA process, after struggling to find an appropriately qualified auctioneer locally.