It will come as no surprise in the circumstances that the South African regulator ICASA has received an enthusiastic response to its offer of temporary spectrum.
In fact, according to local news reports, ICASA has received around 35 applications for temporary licences for what is referred to as high-demand spectrum.
The response comes a few weeks after the South African government instructed ICASA to issue new spectrum to telecommunications operators on a temporary basis. The aim of the ruling was to expand provision to cope with the inevitable surge in demand for bandwidth as companies and individuals move to home working during the nationwide lockdown – to combat the spread of coronavirus – that is still in progress.
It is hoped that this gesture will ease network congestion, maintain good-quality broadband services and allow licensees to lower the cost of access to consumers. The high-demand spectrum is in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands.
ICASA has not disclosed the list of applicants, though speculation in the South African press suggests major players like MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, Telkom and data-only player Rain are likely to be involved.
Temporarily issued spectrum will be valid until the end of November 2020. It has been made clear that the emergency release of this spectrum does not negate the processes currently under way for the permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction.
ICASA intends to finalise the licensing process for the bands in which the temporary spectrum is being offered by the end of the year.