Telecoms watchdog the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has published the Final International Mobile Telephony (IMT) Roadmap, which outlines plans for freeing up additional spectrum for mobile broadband services by migrating a number of current licensees out of or within bands. The document seeks to ‘ensure universal availability of broadband services, as well as [promoting] a vibrant and competitive telecommunications industry’. With regards to the 694MHz-876MHz frequency band, the regulator proposes that Neotel, which currently holds 2×5MHz paired spectrum in the 827MHz-832MHz/872MHz-877MHz bands, should be migrated to 825MHz-830MHz/870MHz-875MHz band. The operator may also be required to implement mitigation measures (i.e. filters) in order to minimise GSM-R interference and be restricted to use 2×3.75MHz for CDMA voice services in areas with GSM-R coverage.
Further, ICASA discusses several options for potential spectrum allocations in the 450MHz-470MHz band, which will be used to boost coverage in underserved areas. In order to release spectrum for the ‘SA Connect’ initiative, the migration process for rural areas could start as early as 2015, with existing spectrum holders required to vacate the band in rural areas no later than the end of 2018. For urban areas, existing licensees will be obliged to migrate out of the band by the end of 2022.
ICASA has also opened a public consultation on its draft Radio Frequency Spectrum Assignment Plan (RFSAP) for IMT. The Draft RFSAP seeks to specify the technical conditions on the use of the frequency bands and is aimed at soliciting views from stakeholders on the Rules for Services operating in each frequency band. All interested parties are invited to submit their comments on the topic within 14 days of the document’s publication. Although the regulator is planning to adopt the new frequency assignment plan by July 2015, the issuance of licences before that date has not been ruled out.