The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said that a recent article titled “ICASA stifling broadband in SA” is not accurate, and that the problem of broadband spectrum licensing does not lie with the regulator.
This response from ICASA comes after an article which argued that the regulator is stifling broadband in South Africa – especially when it comes to e-band spectrum (ICASA stifling broadband in SA).
“I believe it is time for ICASA to take a pro-active approach and fast track regulations so that the country can benefit from the new developments. Unless that happens, the 2020 vision of broadband for all will but remain a pipedream,” said the article’s author, Hans van de Groenendaal.
ICASA has now hit back, saying that there are inaccuracies in the article, and that it sends the wrong message and perception that the problem lies with ICASA.
Here is the full response from ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka.
The Author is alleging that ICASA is stifling broadband by not making available the E-Band. The Authority would like to point out that the 71-76 and 81-86 GHz bands (widely known as “E-Band”) are permitted worldwide for ultra-high capacity point-to-point communications.
Wireless regulators in the USA, UK and many other countries have introduced “light licensing” schemes for managing this band. In South Africa the band is available for use as point to point links but there hasn’t been an uptake as the current fees are prohibitively high for these systems.
ICASA has had meetings with a number of stakeholders including equipment suppliers such that others have been licensed on temporary basis pending the finalisation of regulations to deploy these systems.
The Authority will in time come up with a licensing regime (e.g. light-licensing) that doesn’t subject these systems to the current spectrum fee formula.
The insinuation that the alleged non-availability of this band stifles broadband is devoid of truth as what limits the broadband is a combination of limits on available high propagation access spectrum and unwillingness of operators to rollout 3G services countrywide.
There is no shortage of backhaul spectrum and ICASA has had no problems in meeting the demand for such spectrum.
The article, therefore, fails to mention that although these are high capacity fixed links systems they only cover distances of approximately 1 – 3Km which is why they can never be a solution for rural broadband access.
On the other hand, the Authority has made numerous attempts to make available the internationally harmonised access bands (e.g. 2.6GHz and 800MHz). These bands are particularly central to broadband roll-out nationally.
Those who have been following our processes will know that the Authority is awaiting a Ministerial Policy Direction on how to proceed with licensing of this high demand spectrum.
Therefore to link the issue of the E-Band to wireless broadband rollout is not correct on the part of the Author; and sends a wrong message and perception that the problem lies with ICASA while he did not contact the Authority for comment to the article.