With hopes high that the country might finally be able to auction spectrum after many delays, it seems that South Africa’s operators are now keen to get involved in the process.
Reports suggest that there have been six applications for so-called high-demand spectrum. Telecoms regulator ICASA has apparently received applications from MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Cell C, Rain Networks and Liquid Telecom.
ICASA said, “In terms of the published timetable for this licensing process, the Authority will announce the qualified bidders on 21 February 2022. This will mark the next critical milestone in the effort of the Authority to finally release this much-needed economic stimulus input.”
This has been a long drawn-out process that, it is hoped, will reach its final stages when the auction itself takes place in March this year. The country’s end users have long been frustrated by the way in which growing data demand has not been matched by spectrum availability. Added spectrum would also offer increased network capacity that could bring down prices.
Nor is demand likely to slow down anytime soon. As smartphone prices fall, data usage – notably in areas like streaming, which is seen as an important market for broadcast platforms – will grow.
For the moment at least, the threat of legal challenges to the auction, and thus to the part it plays in accelerating the roll-out of 5G and expanding 4G capacity, is on hold.
In particular, Telkom has, for now, withdrawn its threat to prevent ICASA from processing any applications until after a review of the regulator's invitation to apply.