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Icasa delays spectrum release until 2021

Partly because it prioritised the release of Covid-19 emergency spectrum.
Mobile operators say data costs could drop significantly once regulators auction the much needed-spectrum. Image: Shutterstock

South Africa’s telecoms regulator said on Thursday it now plans to auction high-demand spectrum licences by no later than the end of March 2021, pushing back the process by three months due to a delay in issuing invites to apply.

Allocation of high-demand spectrum is seen as key to expanding broadband services, especially 5G, in Africa’s most industrialised economy, where the high cost of telecommunications is a barrier to doing business.

Read: Task team set up to finalise urgent economic recovery plan

Data costs have come down after mobile operators were forced to cut data prices, but they still argue that costs could drop significantly once regulators auction the much needed spectrum.

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The invitations for both the wholesale open-access network (Woan) and commercial high-demand spectrum for mobile operators such as Vodacom, MTN and Telkom will be published no later than September 30, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) said in a statement.

The delay in issuing the invites was caused by, among others, prioritising the release of Covid-19 emergency spectrum, not having a sufficient number of members of its council as well as additional considerations related to the viability of the Woan, which will force operators to share spectrum, the Icasa added.

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