South Africa begins three-stage spectrum auction

South Africa begins three-stage spectrum auction

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is today launching the first of three stages of its much-delayed spectrum auction.

The initial stage is an opt-in auction with bidding to commence and conclude today. The single round is aimed at the four smallest operators in the market - Cell C, Liquid Telecom, Rain Networks and Telkom South Africa – and will allow the competitors to procure the minimum spectrum portfolio (MSP).

To meet this requirement, operators must hold at least two 10MHz blocks below 1GHz, and 60MHz above this frequency. Existing allocations are included in the MSP, but even so only two of the four bidders will be able to obtain enough spectrum in this opt-in stage to meet the requirement.

The second stage is the main auction, due to commence on 10th March. The four smaller operators were among the six qualifiers for this stage, along with MTN and Vodacom’s South African units. The third and final stage is focused on distributing certain frequencies.

The multi-band auction will see spectrum available across the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,600MHz and 3,500MHz bands. Originally slated for March 2021, an ongoing legal dispute between ICASA and Telkom SA has caused significant delays.

ICASA chair Keabetswe Modimoeng noted that the regulator was focused on ensuring there were “no irreversible anti-competitive effects for the industry and the market.”

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