Marian Shinn, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications, recently said the ANC government’s “perpetual policy bungling” is keeping data prices high in South Africa.
“The lack of availability of spectrum for wireless broadband services is the major cause of high prices,” said Shinn.
“The unavailability of spectrum has created an artificial scarcity that has stifled competition needed to drive down prices.”
She pointed out that the unavailability of spectrum has two causes:
- The failure of the government’s programme to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting.
- The failure of government policy on how to allocate high-demand spectrum.
When many people hear “spectrum” or “Digital TV migration” they switch off, thinking it is stuff for techies worry about.
However, spectrum affects something every citizen is aware of – mobile data prices.
Below is a summary of why you should care about the government’s Digital TV and spectrum allocation delays.
- The broadcasting digital migration process will free up valuable spectrum to roll out LTE and LTE-A networks.
- The spectrum allocation process, including the “freed up” spectrum from the digital migration process, will provide operators with more spectrum.
- The more spectrum operators have, the more capacity their networks have. They can then offer higher broadband speeds at lower prices.
- The migration process should have been completed in 2011, but the Department of Communications messed things up.
- The spectrum allocation process is also a mess, and telecommunications minister Siyabonga Cwele has launched legal action against ICASA to stop its spectrum auction.
- This means valuable spectrum remains unused.
- To compensate for the lack of spectrum, Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C are building more towers to create more network capacity. This costs billions each year.
- These companies must cover their costs, so prices remain relatively high.
- This means you pay more for data than what you could if the government sorted itself out.
It is undeniable that valuable spectrum has been lying unused for years, costing the country billions each year.
The next time spectrum and the digital TV process are discussed, take note – they are costing you money each month.