MTN, South Africa’s second largest mobile phone operator, has welcomed a notice by the country’s communications watchdog to issue an invitation for telecoms operators to bid for a much-needed 4G spectrum to deliver broadband services. By Staff Writer

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) today officially invited telcos such as Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom, etc, to apply for 4G licenses to provide much-needed broadband services.

Applicants will be vying to apply for the radio frequency spectrum licenses within the designated range: the 2.6GHz band and the 800 MHz band and the 700MHz band for the purposes of providing national broadband wireless access services.

The base price for 4G license would be R3 billion for duration of 15 years.

MTN said it welcomes the progress made by ICASA and supports the regulator in its efforts to make frequency spectrum available.

It added that it was encouraged by the fact that ICASA has issued an invitation to apply for frequencies that will support the significant broadband roll out that is needed to achieve the SA connect targets.

“Adequate frequency spectrum is often considered the life-blood of a mobile communications company and equally the availability of frequency spectrum is a very important factor in rolling out a national mobile network. In a very competitive market, spectrum auctions are a viable mechanism to ensure that spectrum is used as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Mteto Nyati, MTN SA CEO, said.

“Benefits of auctions are that regulators are seen to act in a transparent manner. In that respect, there is significant research and literature that indicate that an auction is the most optimal approach for a regulator to take when licencing spectrum. As a result, the use of auctions in licencing high demand spectrum is a valid, robust and tried and tested approach.”

MTN is currently evaluating the invitation to apply as published to fully understand the requirements for participation as well as the terms and conditions of the auction process.

The telco added that it will raise its questions with the regulator within the stipulated timelines.

“Ultimately, the licensing of frequency spectrum will benefit consumers who are demanding better quality and higher speeds  as it will allow operators to more rapidly roll out advanced broadband services and further stimulate broadband connectivity in South Africa,” said Nyati.

In the absence of assigning such high demand spectrum, MTN is currently densifying its network by rolling out further base stations and re-farming its existing spectrum holdings to support LTE technology.

However, this exercise has limitations. Re-farming of existing frequency spectrum holdings also need to be done carefully so as not to degrade existing services.

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