Icasa delays spectrum release until 2021 – TechCentral

Icasa delays spectrum release until 2021 – TechCentral

Icasa will issue two invitations to apply (ITAs) to participate in the national spectrum auction and licensing process by no longer than the end of September, the communications regulator said in a statement on Thursday.

The spectrum will be allocated by the end of Icasa’s financial year in March 2021, which is three months later than the 31 December 2020 deadline it had originally promised to meet.

The ITAs for both the wholesale open-access network, or Woan, and commercial high-demand spectrum for operators such as Vodacom, MTN and Telkom will be published this month. It had originally been expected that Icasa would publish the ITA at the end of June.

It blamed the need to prioritise the release of Covid-19 emergency spectrum to operators for not meeting that deadline. Additional considerations, including discussions on the viability of the Woan and the fact that council was “almost inquorate” for a period close to three months, also received blame.

“The publication of the two ITAs shows the authority’s commitment to its plans of releasing spectrum in the 2020/2021 financial year,” it said in the statement. “In light of the time lost as a result of the delay in the issuing of the ITAs, the auction of the high-demand spectrum, which was originally contemplated to take place during December 2020, will be completed by no later than 31 March 2021.”

Key considerations

A reasons document outlining Icasa’s positions on comments received from the industry will be published concurrently with the ITAs. The key considerations flowing from the representations into an Information Memorandum published previously include:

  • The development of various empowerment obligations to be imposed on the successful bidders in the auction process, including a requirement to support mobile virtual network operators;
  • The requirement for successful bidders to support the Woan through the procurement of a minimum 30% of national capacity;
  • The imposition of empowerment obligations on the Woan to ensure that it is a “credible empowerment tool that will assist the authority to achieve the sector’s transformation agenda”; and
  • The structuring and framing of the lots of spectrum in the auction in a manner that balances the objective to promote effective competition, facilitate new entrants and raise revenue for the fiscus.

“Icasa has also completed a process to determine the fair economic value of the five spectrum bands that will be made available for auction and spectrum that will be made available to the Woan, taking into consideration the current state of competition in the South African market,” said Icasa chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng.

Icasa chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng

In the interim, Icasa has asked industry players and other stakeholders to make representations on the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the market, which the council should take into account in finalising the ITAs. These inputs must reach Icasa by 16 September.

“The delicate nature of the licensing process requires that the authority exercise added caution to ensure full compliance with all administrative and procedural fairness requirements. It is also of significance that the ultimate outcome of the process receives the buy-in and support from all interested stakeholders,” Modimoeng said.  — © 2020 NewsCentral Media

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