If Vodacom got more spectrum, customers would have a better experience

If the government released high-frequency spectrum suited for LTE networks, everyone on Vodacom’s network would have a better experience.

This is according to Vodacom CTO Andries Delport, who said the benefits would extend beyond just its LTE client base.

The spectrum – radio frequencies in the 2,600MHz band – have been lying unused for years.

While not particularly useful for rural areas, the spectrum can be used to take pressure off a network like Vodacom’s – freeing up capacity that may be used by non-LTE subscribers.

Delport said that if they can offload traffic from their 1,800MHz spectrum currently being used for LTE, the extra space could be used for a variety of things.

This includes improving the network performance for LTE subscribers and increasing the capacity available to 2G and 3G subscribers – improving their experience.

Subscribers with devices that support LTE-A carrier aggregation technology should also see much better throughput if the extra spectrum was activated.

Spectrum delays

The process to assign high-demand spectrum in South Africa has been stuck in limbo since 2006.

The Minister of Telecommunications Siyabonga Cwele recently revealed a plan to build a wireless open access network (WOAN) for South Africa, a pillar of the department’s National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper.

The plan wanted to allocate the high-demand spectrum, which mobile networks have been begging for, to the WOAN. It also suggested taking away operators’ existing spectrum.

The minister has since partially backtracked on this, and a compromise with the industry was said to have been reached.

Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom, Rain, and Neotel’s spectrum licences will not be revoked until at least 2028, and a study will be done to determine how much spectrum the WOAN needs. The remainder may then be licenced to operators.

Treasury has set a deadline for this study – the end of August.

Delport said he is worried about the short timeline given to the parties involved, including the CSIR, to complete the study.

“They have until the end of August to come up with some serious, serious work,” said Delport, adding that waiting a bit longer to ensure the study is done well is a small sacrifice at this stage.

Now read: We need spectrum to cover rural South Africa – Vodacom

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If Vodacom got more spectrum, customers would have a better experience