DOC to issue spectrum policy later this month

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Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The final policy directive on spectrum allocation will be issued by the end of April, according to the Department of Communications (DOC).

Yesterday, the DOC's leadership met with ICT industry stakeholders to further discuss and finalise consultations for licensing of high-demand radio frequency spectrum.

The finalisation of the policy directive will pave the way for the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) to fast-track 4G spectrum assignment. ICASA initially planned to license spectrum by the end of March.

Both president Cyril Ramaphosa and finance minister Tito Mboweni have this year emphasised the importance of this process, as a spectrum auction could raise several billion rand for government.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told yesterday's delegation the licensing of high-demand spectrum is necessary to lessen resource constraints experienced by incumbent mobile operators, enable transformation of a historically vertically integrated market, level the playing field and enable new entrants in the market.

Further, it will contribute to reducing the cost to communicate and drive universal services and access, she noted.

The minister urged stakeholders to strive to find consensus that ensures high-demand spectrum is eventually licensed. According to Ndabeni-Abrahams, common ground should be reached between the policymaker and regulator to ensure the process is concluded and spectrum is duly allocated timeously.

"Since the advent of mobile broadband, spectrum has turned out to be both a competitive and an anti-competitive tool for incumbent network operators and a barrier to entry for new entrants.

"Some spectrum lies unutilised or underutilised in time or space, and we would like to change that by making sure spectrum is effectively and efficiently licensed in order to address not only revenue generation, but to also ensure inclusive participation."

Government cannot be excluded from the process of spectrum licensing given the strategic implications of spectrum not only in the sector but in the economy as a whole, Ndabeni-Abrahams said, adding that licensing of high-demand spectrum is the main catalyst for the digital economy.

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