South Africans will soon be able to call or SMS 111 at no charge for COVID-19 national emergency services.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has issued a notice to harmonise and mandate the short code “111”.
“The service code ‘111’ is hereby harmonised and mandated for COVID-19 national emergency services,” the regulator said.
The regulator said the COVID-19 national emergency services accessed through this service code will not incur any charges for the caller or sender.
Instead, the new 111 service will be subject to the toll-free framework which currently applies to free calls.
ICASA said the number has been mandated specifically for South Africa’s COVID-19 national emergency.
It will cease to be operational within three months of the termination of the current National State of Disaster.
ICASA releases emergency spectrum
This decision by ICASA follows another lockdown-related move – the release of emergency spectrum to meet the increase in broadband services demand during the lockdown period.
The spectrum will be made available for the duration of the National State of Disaster, ICASA said, and is expected to ease network congestion in this period.
The following spectrum bands will be made available for temporary assignment:
“It is of critical importance to note that the emergency release of this spectrum does not, in any way whatsoever, negate the processes that are currently underway for permanent assignment of spectrum through an auction, the process which the Authority had committed to finalise by the end of 2020,” said ICASA acting chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
ICASA said it received 35 applications in response to its call for applications for the temporary assignment of spectrum.
The telecoms regulator is expected to announce its decisions on the assignment of spectrum this week.