ICASA extends temporary spectrum to March 2021; levies fees on usage

1 Dec 2020

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has approved the amendment of the ICT COVID-19 National State of Disaster Regulations to extend the validity period of the temporary assignment of radio frequency spectrum from 30 November 2020 to ‘no later than 31 March 2021’, by which date the regulator plans to complete the country’s auction of high demand spectrum.

All licensees which have been assigned temporary spectrum and wish to continue using it for the extended period will be required to pay prescribed spectrum licence fees. In releasing the initial temporary spectrum to meet high demand for services during the emergency/lockdown situation, ICASA did not require any spectrum fee payments, but its chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng now explains: ‘We are aware that licensees generated and reported revenue growth during this period. We have therefore resolved that, in addition to fulfilment of the obligations imposed with the release of temporary spectrum, the extended use of spectrum must be at a fee as provided for in the amended regulations.’

ICASA plans to license the 700MHz and 800MHz bands (‘digital dividend’ frequencies currently occupied by TV 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 closing date for bidding applications is 28 December 2020.