The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is preparing to start the auction of the high demand spectrum from March 1, 2022.
A new roadmap envisages the publication of invitation to apply (ITA) for the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum by December 10, 2021.
The updated timelines for the auction of the long-awaited spectrum follow the consent order granted by the North Gauteng High Court on September 15, 2021, which ended the litigation instituted against the authority by Telkom and e.tv.
“In framing the truncated timetable and roadmap, the authority was mindful of the need for the expedited licensing process to be completed with exigency while adhering to a comprehensive and transparent consultative process,” said Icasa chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
Icasa is now embarking on a process to consult stakeholders on key aspects pertaining to the expedited licensing process for high demand spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (Woan), including the implications of the release of high demand spectrum and the licensing of the Woan on competition in the market, the radio frequency bands to be licensed, in view of the yet to be completed digital migration process, and the nature and extent of obligations to be imposed.
“Pursuant to the consultation process, the authority may amend and/or re-issue the ITAs with a view to conducting an auction by the end of the current financial year,” he said.
According to the new schedule, Icasa will host a workshop on October 15 on the information memorandum on the IMT published on October 1, with the closing date to receive representations on the memorandum set to close on November 1.
By November 15, the authority aims to publish a second information memorandum for consultation, which will allow stakeholders to submit further comments until November 29.
Following this, Icasa will publish the IMT ITA, with a closing date of January 31, with the announcement of the qualified bidders expected by February 21 and the start of the auction process on March 1, 2022.
For the Woan, Icasa will, by November 19, publish a consultation document in respect of the draft amended composite ITA for individual electronic communications network services, or I-ECNSs, and radio frequency spectrum licences for the purpose of operating a Woan, with a closing date for written representations of January 10, 2022.
The authority will publish the amended composite ITA on February 14, followed by public workshops on March 15, before closing the applications on May 13, 2022.
Modimoeng expressed his gratitude to the parties to the litigation for not opposing Icasa’s consent order, which enables the authority to start the revised process with a view to “finally get the spectrum licensed” on a long-term basis and in line with best regulatory practice.
“All things being equal, we envisage to licence the IMT spectrum no later than end of March 2022,” he said, adding that Icasa remains resolute in ensuring that it discharges its constitutional mandate in a fair, open and transparent manner, and for the benefit of all South Africans.
He urged all stakeholders to participate fully in the consultative engagement and to engage openly and robustly to ensure that no further impediments are placed in the way of the finalisation of this critical economic intervention.