Mobile operators get ’emergency spectrum’ to help with internet demand during South Africa’s lockdown

Wireless tower

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) will release emergency spectrum to allow the country’s mobile operators to meet the spike in broadband services demand due to South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown.

The regulator said it will publish a government gazette on Monday (6 April) containing regulations that prescribe minimum standards that licensees must adhere to for the entire period of the national state disaster to access this spectrum.

“A critical measure introduced by the regulations is the temporary release of high demand spectrum (HDS) for the duration of the national state of disaster in order to ease network congestion, maintain good quality of broadband services, and enable licensees to lower cost of access to consumers,” Icasa said.

The regulator said that it has decided to make the following International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum bands available for temporary assignment:

  • 700MHz;
  • 800MHz;
  • 2300MHz;
  • 2600MHz;
  • 3500MHz.

“It is of critical importance to note that the emergency release of this spectrum does not, in any way whatsoever, negate the processes that are currently underway for permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction, the process which the Authority had committed to finalise by the end of 2020; as well as the assignment of spectrum to be set aside for the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) due for completion next year,” said Icasa acting chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

“We intend to take the necessary care in this regard and to ensure that there are no irreversible anti-competitive effects for the market,” he said.

“In addition, we really urge licensees to work with us for the benefit of all South Africans in a collaborative effort so that the emergency release of the spectrum can make a meaningful contribution to curb the spread and flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Read: The best and worst mobile networks in South Africa

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