In an interview with Tech Central, Vodacom group CEO Pieter Uys has urged South African telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to consider using the 800MHz spectrum freed up by the impending switch to digital television for an ‘open access’ rural communications network, rather than distributing the spectrum to rival operators who are likely to end up duplicating infrastructure. Frequency in the 800MHz band is well-suited to covering large coverage zones around base stations, making it ideal for providing low cost rural connectivity.
Uys commented: ‘The 800MHz band should be pooled and used jointly to build a network in, say, Putsonderwater, where you can’t build multiple networks. The digital dividend is a scarce resource and it should be used in a way that benefits the whole country. [ICASA] should develop a plan with input from regulators in the rest of the world, from suppliers and other experts, to say what is best for South Africa in the long term, based on the country’s goals’. Despite widespread operator misgivings – with television companies citing a lack of preparedness – South Africa’s digital switchover is currently scheduled for end-December 2013.