Telecoms regulator Icasa said on Thursday it is preparing to issue an invitation to apply (ITA) for high demand spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN), a significant step towards the rollout of 5G across more of the country.
Mobile operators MTN Group, Vodacom Group and Rain have started rolling out 5G networks in major South African cities using temporary spectrum assigned by the telecom regulator.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has committed to holding an auction to issue permanent high-demand spectrum licences by December.
The ITA is for licences in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands, which is most commonly associated with 5G.
Allocation of radio frequency 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.
Data costs have come down recently after mobile operators were forced to cut data prices, but they still argue that costs could come down significantly once regulators auction the much needed spectrum.
Icasa did not give an exact date for when it will publish the invitations.
It said it has made extensive progress in developing both invites, however, “given the complexity of the process, there are additional considerations the Authority must apply itself to.”
“This has resulted in the Authority having slightly delayed the publication of the ITAs,” Icasa Acting Chairperson Dimakatso Qocha said in a statement, after Icasa’s councillor, Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa, had told lawmakers last month that the regulator would publish the ITA by June and receive all applications by September.