ICASA bows to operator pressure; postpones 800MHz, 2.6GHz spectrum auction until further notice

6 Mar 2012

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has postponed the licensing of spectrum suitable for Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile services, after the country’s main players successfully argued that its draft spectrum assignment plan was released prematurely. The brief press statement issued by the watchdog reads: ‘The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa hereby postpones the licensing of High Demand Spectrum until further notice. This is to ensure that the minister’s policy direction on high demand spectrum is taken into consideration. The Authority has received over 20 submissions and they will be made available from ICASA website and the library. The Authority would like to thank stakeholders for their submissions; and this will serve as valuable contribution to the process moving forward’.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in December 2011 ICASA proposed a framework for the licensing of mobile broadband spectrum in the 2.6GHz and 800MHz spectrum bands. The regulator aimed to avoid a traditional auction process, and instead sought to stage a comparative process, or ‘beauty contest’ procedure, taking into account factors including: business plan, technical plan, market innovation and network rollout. The closing date for applications was initially slated for 23 March 2012 and the authority aimed to finalise the process on 30 April 2012. The 2.6GHz band is already available for allocation, while the 800MHz ‘digital dividend’ band (790MHz-862MHz), suitable for rural network rollouts, will become available following the country’s move from analogue to digital broadcasting, which is scheduled to begin in April 2012.