ICASA has published Information and Communications Technology (“ICT”) COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations which give guidelines on the temporary assignment of spectrum.
This spectrum will be released for the duration of the national state of disaster and is expected to ease network congestion.
It should also enable operators to maintain the quality of broadband services and enable licensees to lower the cost of access to consumers.
Five spectrum bands will be made available for temporary assignment – 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,300MHz, 2,600MHz and 3,500MHz.
The good news is that two or more licensees may share radio frequency spectrum assigned to alleviate the challenges of network capacity.
Any spectrum assigned temporarily to licensees shall be revoked three months after the National State of Disaster is terminated.
7 things networks must show before they can get spectrum
The I-ECS and I-ECNS who need access to spectrum will need to demonstrate what the impact on network performance will be with additional spectrum. They are required to:
- Provide the network performance report before the COVID-19 outbreak with the currently assigned spectrum holding.
- Provide the current network performance.
- Indicate the areas that are highly constrained.
- Provide the network projections during the national lockdown.
- Indicate the band they require access to and the bandwidth required (for the immediate use only).
- Provide the modelled network performance with the additional spectrum they require.
- Provide benefits to be realized by the consumers (i.e. reduced data prices, free daily bundle to all the customers, Wi-Fi connectivity etc.).
Data price cuts
The regulations from ICASA follow Vodacom and MTN cutting their mobile data prices in South Africa.
Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit, said Vodacom can play a critical role in “supporting society during this challenging time”. Additionally, it will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU.
MTN SA added that it will offer customers 500MB free data access to public benefit services websites every month, amounting to 6GB per year.