Spectrum release spearheads comms sector growth
MTBPS 2023: The communications sector is expected to benefit in the medium-term from the rollout of telecoms infrastructure for newly-licensed spectrum.
This, after the transport, storage and communications sector grew by 5.6% in the first six months of the year, according to the sector performance and outlook in the 2023 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.
The newly-licensed spectrum is further expected to facilitate wider and lower‐cost coverage, says the Treasury document.
In March 2022, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) confirmed the “successful” conclusion of the auction of the International Mobile Telecommunications spectrum – also known as high-demand radio frequency spectrum.
ICASA received spectrum applications from six mobile players: Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom and Vodacom.
Access to high‐demand spectrum will help mobile operators provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services. On the consumer front, it would mean making affordable data available to firms and households.
The telecoms regulator indicated the auction process beat financial projections, raising R14.4 billion for the national fiscus.
Last month, ITWeb reported that ICASA had given mobile operators until the end of October, to settle outstanding fees from last year’s spectrum auction.
ICASA councillor Peter Zimri told National Council of Provinces members that operators paid the initial amount of the fees; however, some payments were still outstanding.
The councillor did not divulge which telcos still had to pay up.
The outstanding amount was for the sub-1GB (700MHz-800MHz) radio frequency bands, which was not available to the mobile network operators because it was occupied by the analogue TV signals.
As of 31 July, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies – through Sentech − migrated all the broadcasters from any band above 694MHz, making sure lots of the spectrum auctioned last year became available to the telcos.
This is part of a phased-approach that will culminate in 31 December 2024, which is the end of the dual-illumination period and switch-off of the remaining analogue services below 694MHz.