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Spectrum policy imminent, says department

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Mobile operators have been waiting for years to get their hands on more spectrum.
Mobile operators have been waiting for years to get their hands on more spectrum.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) says the policy crafting the path towards mobile spectrum allocation has been finalised.

This comes after the minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams promised, in her budget vote speech on 10 July, to “issue the final policy and policy direction to ICASA” within the next seven working days.

In a brief statement, the DCDT states: “As announced in the 2019 budget vote, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies advises that the policy direction on unassigned high-demand spectrum has been finalised and is going through the requisite processes prior to publication.

“Further communication in this regard will be made in due course.”

Last month, president Cyril Ramaphosa said 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.

The industry and mobile operators are still waiting.

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.

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