SA Government To Intervene in Temporary Spectrum Impasse


The South African government plans to intervene in the impasse between mobile network operators and the country’s communications watchdog, ICASA, over the expiry of the temporary spectrum.

 “The minister [Khumbudzo Ntshavheni] is engaging with all parties to find an amicable solution in the matter,” Communications department spokesperson Tlali Tlali told the Business Times.

He added that “the department’s view is that the courts should be an option of last resort to be explored only in the event all other efforts do not yield desirable outcomes”.

The temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited ITA during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster, which in turn was occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ICASA has since twice extended the duration of the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment, with the last expiry date being 31 August 2021.

South Africa’s operators are expected to give back temporary radio frequency spectrum assignments.

The country’s communications watchdog said in August that it had resolved that the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to licensees would now have to be returned by no later than 30 November 2021.

But this month, Telkom, joined by MTN, filed court papers in a bid to stop Icasa from withdrawing all the temporary spectrum, arguing that the country is still under a state of disaster regulations and warning that if the temporary arrangement is terminated it will disadvantage consumers as there will be network interruptions.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and businesses have been calling on the regulator to expedite the permanent licensing of spectrum as it is critical to SA’s economic growth.

For more read: Government intervenes in temporary spectrum standoff


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