Spectrum policy gets Cabinet approval

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 25 Jul 2019
Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu. [Photo source: GCIS]
Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu. [Photo source: GCIS]

Cabinet, the senior level of the executive branch of government, has approved the much-anticipated policy and policy direction for the licensing of high-demand spectrum. 

This was announced by minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, during a media briefing earlier today, detailing the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held on 24 July 2019.

Despite the announcement, mobile operators, SMMEs and other industry players will have to wait for minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to provide further details of the Cabinet-approved pathway for much needed spectrum.

Mthembu stated: “Cabinet approved the policy and policy direction for the licensing of the high-demand spectrum after extensive consultations with the sector and the public.

“The policy and policy direction sets a framework for the transformation of the sector by enabling entrance of new players in this important market while at the same time encouraging investments and innovation.” 

Mobile operators have been waiting for years for allocation of 4G spectrum in order to provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services.

The last big set of spectrum issued was in the 2.1GHz band, which helped the operators in their 3G network deployment. Vodacom and MTN were allocated such spectrum, respectively, in 2004 and 2005, while Cell C received such spectrum in 2011.

Since coming into office, president Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the importance of the process, as a spectrum auction could raise several billion rand for government.

In his State of the Nation Address last month, Ramaphosa once again promised that Ndabeni-Abrahams will issue the policy direction to ICASA to commence the spectrum licensing process “within the next month”.

The same rhetoric was repeated at the inaugural Digital Economy Summit earlier this month, with the communications minister acknowledging the long wait for the pathway forward around spectrum allocation.

“This directive will also provide a legal framework for the allocation of spectrum to the private sector and other industry stakeholders,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.