With the granting by the country’s ICT Authority (ICTA) of 5G licences to three mobile operators, Mauritius is the latest African country to take a step towards launching 5G – but it has done so in a slightly different way.
ICTA released a public consultation regarding the opening of frequency bands for 5G in February. Invitations were sent out in April to the three mobile operators – Cellplus Ltd, Emtel Ltd and Mahanagar Telecom Mauritius Limited – to apply for radio spectrum that would enable them to deploy 5G networks.
Following responses received from the industry, a total of 300MHz of radio spectrum in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands was made available by the regulator. Three blocks of 100MHz each were made available in the two different frequency bands.
Each operator was asked to specify its preferred frequency blocks and to set out its commitments to network coverage. Based on this, the authority decided which blocks the operators would get. The operators also had to disclose to the regulator their timeframes for achieving specific percentages of network coverage for mainland Mauritius as well as the outer islands.
This approach, as ICTA points out, contrasts with traditional spectrum auctioning which it suggests, not without justification, has been criticized as detrimental to infrastructure deployment. ICTA argues that its approach can both promote competition and drive investment.
ICTA adds that, by making spectrum available, it expects that Mauritius will soon be among the first few countries on the African continent to launch 5G commercially.