LTE in mortal danger in SA

WiMAX was in effect killed off by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), with the Department of Communications an accessory to this economic crime. Now great effort seems to be going into inflicting mortal wounds on LTE.

This is according to the Arthur Goldstuck, MD of South African research firm World Wide Worx.

“ICASA’s activities around spectrum assignment have mirrored the effectiveness of previous Department of Communications administrations, which appeared to be missing in action when action was what was needed most,” Goldstuck said.

Goldstuck said that although there are sincere intentions at ICASA, and a commitment to be aligned with Government policy directives, every additional delay and round of consultation condemns SA broadcasting and telecommunications to falling ever further behind.

Derek Hershaw
Derek Hershaw - MWEB ISP MD

“The fact that this process has been dragging on for years now is clearly unacceptable and the growing frustration within the industry is clear to see,” said Derek Hershaw, CEO of Mweb ISP.

Hershaw said that ICASA and DoC have to shoulder the responsibility for this between them, adding that a natural resource is being wasted, holding back the growth of broadband and therefore economic growth and social upliftment in SA.

“I think we’re still in for a long ride on this one unfortunately,” Hershaw said.

Dominic Cull
Dominic Cull

“It’s naive to expect people not to be disaffected with the performance of ICASA,” said Dominic Cull from Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions. “But there are pockets of excellence within the regulator.”

However, in this instance Cull said that ICASA has done its job.

Cull said that while the regulator is certainly responsible for previous delays, the issue around the assignment of high demand spectrum sits entirely with the DoC.

The DoC needs to finalise the policy direction on licensing high demand spectrum and releasing the digital dividend, Cull explained, after which the process ICASA instituted last year can proceed.

Minister of Communications Dina Pule revealed at the DoC’s ICT Policy Colloquium that they aim to make the finalised policy direction available during May 2012.

Rupert Bryant
Rupert Bryant

Rupert Bryant, Chief Operating Officer at WebAfrica, an Internet Service Provider, was more positive about the situation, saying it’s “early days” yet.

“We are especially interested in their proposal for the wholesale option,” Bryant said. “This would give an opportunity to the other ISPs to build new and exciting wireless products, which would be healthy for the industry and consumers alike.”

Arthur Goldstuck
Arthur Goldstuck - World Wide Worx

However, Goldstuck said that the regulator’s history has sullied its reputation.

“Based on its past record, ICASA must be regarded as guilty until it can prove itself innocent on several counts: regulatory sloth and destruction of opportunity, among others.”

Goldstuck conceded that there are mitigating circumstances, namely that the sequence of ministerial shuffles, and prior to the reshuffles, ineffective ministers that paralysed both policy and implementation.

“We must give the Minister an opportunity to set her own agenda, and that is likely to come with the Communications Budget Vote in Parliament [in May 2012],” Goldstuck said.

“By mid-year, chances are, we will have a far more positive and aggressive regulatory process under way.”

High demand spectrum policy direction set for May 2012 release

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LLU, broadband, and pay TV are ICASA’s priorities

iPad with LTE: what does it mean for SA?

Will the DoC ever get its act together?

Please don’t mess this one up as well, DoC

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LTE in mortal danger in SA