We now not only know that the South African regulator has released emergency spectrum to a number of service providers, as requested by the government, but we also know who those service providers are.
According to local news reports MTN Group, Vodacom and Telkom have all been granted additional mobile spectrum, while Liquid Telecom and Rain Networks were also granted additional spectrum for their fixed wireless access services.
The temporary licences grant emergency access to additional spectrum to ease congestion for the duration of the nationwide lockdown that is now in force to limit the spread of the coronavirus. A surge in connectivity has been the result of many South Africans working from home or simply using the internet more often while unable to go out.
The licences were released late last week by South Africa’s telecoms regulatory body, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), to both mobile network providers and internet service providers.
These licenses were granted at no cost to the operators. However, they do come with a few conditions attached. Firstly, operators are obliged to facilitate access to remote learning initiatives and virtual classrooms. In addition they must not charge their subscribers for access to health-related websites specifically identified by the country’s Department of Health.
And, of course, as has been stated more than once, this is a stopgap measure. The additional spectrum will be only be available to operators on a temporary basis. The country aims to auction off permanent licences for the spectrum later this year.