The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the country’s telecommunications regulator, is extending the temporary assignment of radio frequency spectrum again – but this time operators will be charged for its use.
ICASA has announced that it has approved the amendment of the ICT Covid-19 National State of Disaster Regulations in order to extend the validity period of the temporary assignment of radio frequency spectrum to no later than 31 March 2021.
ICASA allocated the additional emergency spectrum to several mobile operators and other licensees in April to meet a spike in internet demand during lockdown. At that time, there were no fees charged for use of the spectrum.
The return of the temporary spectrum by South Africa’s operators was originally to have taken place on 30 November, so this extension may be welcome news. However, all licensees who have been assigned temporary spectrum and wish to continue using it for the extended period will be required to pay the prescribed radio frequency spectrum licence fees.
One reason for this change of policy came from ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, who indicated that the temporary release of spectrum has been something of a money-spinner for operators. “We are aware that licensees generated and reported revenue growth during this period,” he was quoted as saying.
He continued, “We have therefore resolved that, in addition to fulfilment of the obligations imposed with the release of temporary spectrum, the extended use of spectrum must be at a fee as provided for in the amended regulations.”
Assuming nothing changes, the spectrum assignment should end just in time for the late March auction that has been agreed for 5G spectrum.