South African regulation overhaul pushes spectrum trading and sharing

South African regulation overhaul pushes spectrum trading and sharing

South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies has laid out a proposal to legalise spectrum trading, which has long been prohibited in the market despite being legal in many others.

Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni issued the Next Generation Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy for Economic Development (Spectrum Policy) on 8th September as part of a promised overhaul of South Africa’s obsolete ICT legislation. As reported by TechCentral, the document also proposes decommissioning 2G and 3G services in South Africa by 2025.

The document proposes a number of measures to encourage economic development, including “market-based approaches such as spectrum trading, spectrum sharing, dynamic spectrum access use, and spectrum subletting and/or sharing between licensees”, although it notes that the regulator ICASA must set standards to govern these practices and ensure their implementation.

In addition, the document lays out recommendations to prevent spectrum hoarding, saying; “given the scarcity and value of spectrum to national development, hoarding of spectrum is not permissible… Licensed spectrum that is unused for a period of more than 24-months will be subjected to the ‘use it or lose it’ principle.”

Under the proposals, ICASA must also coordinate with the Competition Commission to prevent operators from gaining an “unfair advantage over smaller competitors” if they obtain spectrum through the new trading mechanisms, or via a merger or acquisition.

“The regulator must put in place a regulatory framework which clarifies spectrum trading rules between licensees, and promotes approaches that prohibit monopolisation of spectrum, dominance and anticompetitive behaviour in the market”, reads the document.

Ntshavheni’s proposals also push for further spectrum sharing, stating: “to promote spectrum efficiency, coordination for the purpose of spectrum sharing and the use of technologies that will enable greater spectrum sharing among different users is permitted with the prior approval of the regulator.”

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