South African telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele is reportedly considering a proposal from six domestic telecoms operators – named as Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Cell C, Neotel and Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) – that could potentially end the impasse between the industry and the government over the ICT Policy White Paper, TechCentral writes, citing sources familiar with the matter. The government-proposed framework (published in October 2016) stated that all wireless service providers in the country would be required to return their previously assigned spectrum, which in turn would be allocated to a newly-established Wireless Open Access Network (OAN).
The new joint proposal, however, reportedly called for a ‘hybrid’ model that involves both the allocation of exclusive-use spectrum to operators and to the OAN. Further, the operators proposed that the OAN is privately-owned, have black ownership of a minimum of between 30% and 50%, that that the minimum qualifying criterion for participation is a ZAR100 million (USD7.7 million) bid bond. In addition, the operators agreed to meet Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) targets ‘within a defined period’, in return for a guarantee that they would be able to keep existing spectrum assignments until the end of the licence periods and be assigned additional high-demand spectrum not assigned to the OAN.
For his part, the telecoms minister’s spokesman, Siya Qoza, said: ‘We have received suggestions covering various aspects of the policy from, among others, twelve industry associations and other operators. All these inputs are being considered. We remain committed to finalising the implementation plan by the end of March 2017.’ However, Mr Qoza highlighted that the consultations with the industry are on the implementation of the White Paper, ‘not on renegotiating it’.