After a series of delays, the Department of Communications has published its policy on high-demand spectrum.
According to communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, a large portion of the high-demand spectrum will be assigned to the Wholesale Open Access Network (WOAN).
This directive was first outlined in the Electronic Communications Act last year, and this statement is aligned with the plan set out in that document.
A tranche of spectrum is to be assigned first to the WOAN, and the policy adds that only once this has been assigned will mobile networks have access to the scarce resource.
There is no information regarding exactly how much of the available spectrum will be given to the WOAN, but the document does state that the WOAN must have preferential treatment when it comes to the assignment of spectrum within the 700MHz, 800MHz, and 2,600MHz bands.
According to the document, the assignment of high-demand spectrum not reserved for assignment to the WOAN must ensure that the following policy objectives are achieved:
- Leasing of electronic communications networks and electronic communications facilities and provision of wholesale capacity to other licensees, including to the WOAN upon request, as soon as the WOAN is licensed.
- Universal access and universal service obligations to ensure high-quality network availability in rural and under-serviced areas
- The obligations must be complied with in rural and under -serviced areas before the assigned spectrum may be used it other areas bearing in mind practicalities such as the unsuitability of certain high band spectrum for rural areas
- A single entity may not control the spectrum;
- Compliance with empowerment requirements.
These conditions are largely in line with the above-mentioned Electronic Communications Amendment Act published last year, although Ndabeni-Abrahams added that the assignment of 5G spectrum would be covered in a separate policy directive sometime in 2020.