Icasa wanted to finalise its digital migration policy and the frequency band plan before licensing these services, its press release said.
But Icasa does not need to have the digital migration policy in place to license mobile TV, according to analyst David Moore of Africa Analysis.
Moore said the mobile operators and MultiChoice have been ready to launch commercial mobile TV services since 2007, when their trial period was due to end.
“All they need is for some spectrum to be assigned to them (and the licence of course), everything else is in place. The continued delaying of licensing is holding back the industry, and damages confidence in the local telecoms sector.”
He said the digital migration policy, which would govern the switch from analogue to digital TV broadcasting, should have been finalised before the switchover began in November.
The communications department has committed itself to a November 2011 deadline, by which time digital migration must have been completed and the analogue TV signal would be switched off.
“Attempting to finalise policy while you are in the midst of enacting that same policy will just cause confusion and trouble further down the line,” he said.
Moore speculated that Icasa could have unannounced plans for the spectrum.
“Initially the department wanted a single mobile TV transmission network which would be shared by operators,” Moore said. But the proposal was withdrawn after the operators reacted strongly.
“This could be a delaying tactic in order to re-instigate that proposal,” he said.
Analyst Khulekani Dlamini of Renaissance Fund Managers also expressed surprise at Icasa’s decision, but said it was likely Icasa’s concerns centred around the availability of spectrum.