ICASA welcomes ITU resolution on spectrum

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ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.
ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has welcomed the agreements on spectrum reached at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) in Egypt last week.

The agreements, signed by 3 400 delegates from around 165 member states, were enshrined in the Final Acts of the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the global use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.

ICASA says a key achievement is the allocation of high-frequency in the millimetre bands which is a key requirement for 5G deployment.

This month, the regulator published the long-awaited information memorandum on the licensing process for the assignment of the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum, or what is also referred to as high-demand spectrum.

At WRC-19, additional bands for IMT were identified in the 24.25-27.5GHz, 37-43.5GHz, 45.5-47GHz, 47.2-48.2GHz and 66-71GHz bands, facilitating development of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks.

Prior to the meeting, Africa and Europe were headed for a clash regarding the use of 5G mmWave spectrum.

African countries argued that success in the digital economy depends on the availability of necessary radio frequencies, including the “millimetre wave” frequencies that they said will deliver ultra-high capacity and ultra-high-speed services.

Contrary, the European space industry was said to be unreasonably constraining the use of these critical frequencies, with claims of potential interference with its space services.

In Egypt, the conference reviewed and revised the radio regulations, the international treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum and the geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary-satellite orbits.

Reacting to the latest developments, the South African telecoms regulator says the resolution agreed upon last week “does indeed meet ICASA’s vision on spectrum allocation”.

ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka says: “The recently published IMT roadmap captures the authority’s 10- to 20-year plan and further illustrates that the authority’s key primary objective is the assurance of spectrum efficiency, universal availability of broadband services as well as the establishment of a vibrant and competitive telecommunications industry that is attractive for investors.

“Most importantly, the IMT roadmap 2019 is the process of establishing a renewed vision for South Africa that is aligned with international trends and to the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU’s) vision on IMT.

“A key achievement is the allocation of high-frequency in the millimetre bands, which is a key requirement to complement the low and mid bands already allocated in the National Radio Frequency Plan which have to complement each other for the successful launch of the IMT2020 systems, which is a prerequisite for the successful deployment of the fifth-generation networks,” notes Maleka.

In a statement, the ITU says WRC-19 identified additional globally harmonised (millimetre wave) frequency bands for IMT, including IMT-2020 (otherwise known as 5G mobile), facilitating diverse usage scenarios for enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications.

“This will unlock a host of applications facilitating intelligent transport systems, creating smart cities and making communities more sustainable while allowing for effective climate action, improved healthcare, sustainable agricultural practices, and greater energy-efficiency.”

The ITU adds that protections were also accorded to the Earth-exploration satellite service as well as meteorological and other passive services in adjacent bands, such as the space research service, to ensure space-based monitoring of the earth and its atmosphere remains unhindered.

“Satellite services supporting meteorology and climatology that aim to safeguard human life and natural resources will be protected from harmful radio-frequency interference, as will systems used by radio astronomers for deep space exploration,” says the ITU.

Furthermore, it said steps were taken to ensure radio astronomy stations would be protected from any harmful radio interference from other space stations or satellite systems in orbit.

“WRC-19 paves the way for new, more innovative ways to connect the world using both terrestrial and space-based communication technologies,” says ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao. “As leading-edge broadband technology manifests itself in new industrial developments, people in the remotest areas will also get better and more affordable access.”

Mario Maniewicz, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, adds: “The hard won agreements at WRC-19 will favourably impact the lives of billions of people around the world, creating a digital landscape for sustainable growth and development.

"The achievements of WRC-19 in enabling new communication technologies and the protection of existing services will be reflected in the continuous growth of the trillion-dollar telecommunication and ICT industry."

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