ICASA publishes 4G/5G spectrum award plan

4 Nov 2019

South Africa’s telecoms regulator ICASA has published an Information Memorandum setting out the options for licensing high-demand 4G and 5G spectrum in the country, with all interested parties given until 31 January 2020 to submit their comments. ICASA plans to license the 700MHz and 800MHz bands (‘digital dividend’ frequencies, which are currently occupied by analogue television broadcasters), alongside spectrum in the 2300MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands. Specifically, ICASA plans to award 60MHz (2×30MHz) in the 700MHz band, 60MHz (2×30MHz) in the 800MHz band, 40MHz in the 2300MHz band, 170MHz in the 2600MHz band and 116MHz in the 3500MHz band. The spectrum will be awarded on a national basis, and the reserve price for each lot will be different (scheduled to be determined by ICASA after consultation with the industry); frequency spectrum caps will also be introduced following the consultation. The options regarding the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum on offer are as follows:

Option 1

• Lot A – to be reserved for the new wholesale open-access network (WOAN): 2×25MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 2×20MHz (FDD) in 2600MHz band

• Incumbent (assigned): 20MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot B, C and D – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 700MHz band, 2×10MHz (FDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot E – industry: 2×20MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

Option 2

• Lot A – WOAN: 2×20MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 1×20MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Incumbent (assigned): 20MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot B, C and D – industry: 2×10MHz in 700MHz band, 50MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Possible future assignment – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band

Option 3

• Lot A – WOAN: 2×20MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot B, C and D – industry: 2×10MHz in 700MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot E – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 10MHz in 2600MHz band

• In-band migration: 20MHz in 2600MHz band (incumbent)

Option 4

• Lot A – WOAN: 2×20MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot B, C and D – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Possible future assignment: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 700MHz band, 10MHz in 2600MHz band

Option 5

• Lot A – WOAN, 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot B – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot C and D – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 700MHz band, 40MHz (TDD) in 2600MHz band

• Lot E – industry: 2×10MHz (FDD) in 800MHz band, 10MHz in 2600MHz band

• In-band migration: 20MHz in 2600MHz band (incumbent)

Regarding the 2300MHz band, ICASA is planning to award 60MHz to the incumbent, with four 10MHz blocks to be offered to other bidders. In the 3500MHz band, 84MHz will be reserved for the incumbent, while eleven 10MHz ranges, one 2MHz slice and one 4MHz block will also be put on sale. Successful bidders will be required to provide data services across the country with an average down/upload speeds of 30Mbps/15Mbps by 2025; provide open access to a minimum of three mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs); and buy a minimum of 30% of national capacity from the WOAN for a period of at least five years.