ICASA confirms timing for South Africa’s 5G spectrum auctions

It seems that the long-awaited first-ever South African 5G (plus some 4G) auctions are finally set to take place.

South Africa’s telecommunications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), has now said it will invite mobile operators to apply to bid for spectrum for 4G and next generation 5G networks from 2 October. Though there hasn’t been a specific date set, the auctions are expected to take place by the end of March.

According to Reuters, chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng told journalists: “The authority will make available 406 MHz of spectrum for the provision of mobile broadband services in South Africa.”

The spectrum will be in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands. 3.5 GHz is seen as key for 5G and reserve prices for lots in this band range will start at around $588,000, rising to about $4.5 million.

This will be good news for many operators, who are convinced that more spectrum will allow them to bring down the cost of data – a major barrier, some argue, to expanding and making affordable broadband services in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Interested bidders need to register by 28 December. Successful licensees of high-demand spectrum will be obliged to procure – after about seven years – a minimum of 30 percent national capacity from the WOAN, the government’s wireless open access network. The WOAN aims to be a shared model for spectrum allocation rather than auctioning the resource to the highest bidder.

Now that a late March auction has been agreed, mobile operators will be allowed to keep the temporary spectrum awarded to them under the Covid-19 national state of disaster regulations for a few more months, rather than handing it over on 30 November.

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