The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) plans to auction the long-awaited high demand spectrum in March next year.
The auction of the high demand spectrum, which was originally going to take place during December 2020, will now be completed by no later than March 31, 2021, after several delays.
The invitation to apply (ITA) for both the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) and the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum will be issued by September 30.
In the meantime, stakeholders are invited to submit comment by September 16 on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the market, which will be taken into account as the ITAs are finalised.
The delay in issuing the ITAs were attributed to the prioritisation of the release of the Covid-19 emergency spectrum, the additional considerations particularly on the viability of the WOAN and the three-month period of understaffing.
Icasa will also publish a reasons document capturing the authority’s positions on the received responses for the earlier issued Information Memorandum after considering and analysing all the representations received.
The key considerations emanating from the representations into the Information Memorandum 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 procurement of a minimum 30% national capacity; and 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.
Considerations were also given to the structuring and framing of the lots 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 chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
Modimoeng noted that this is one of the most critical and potentially contentious regulatory processes ever undertaken by Icasa with immeasurable economic value for South Africa.
“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. We appeal to stakeholders to adhere to the aforementioned deadline in order to avoid any further delays to the process,” Modimoeng concluded.