ICASA recently licensed temporary spectrum to Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Rain, and Liquid Telecom.
This spectrum will be released for the duration of the national state of disaster with the aim of easing network congestion.
It should also enable operators to maintain the quality of broadband services and lower the cost of access to consumers.
Operators must also ensure that they support and create virtual teaching and classrooms as determined by the government.
Additionally, all COVID-19 sites as identified by the Department of Health and published in the Government Gazette have been zero-rated.
Five spectrum bands were made available for temporary assignment: 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,300MHz, 2,600MHz, and 3,500MHz.
The table below provides an overview of the spectrum the operators will receive.
Vodacom received new spectrum in many bands and has started the process to deploy this spectrum across its network.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said the 700MHz and 800MHz bands can be deployed quickest as there are some existing sites which have radios installed which can already support these frequency bands.
However, because this spectrum is used in some areas for analogue and digital broadcasting, it has to coordinate with Sentech and other operators before it can deploy it.
For the other bands – like 2300MHz and 3.5GHz – entirely new radio equipment will need to be ordered from Vodacom’s equipment vendors.
This is a process which usually would have taken a few weeks, but Vodacom is urgently investigating how the freight and customs clearance approvals can be expedited.
Once the equipment is received in Vodacom’s warehouses, deployment of the equipment will be prioritised on the base stations which need spectrum relief the most.
Vodacom said it will be able to immediately use the spectrum in the 2,600MHz band.
MTN told MyBroadband it has received temporary spectrum license from ICASA on 20 April 2020.
MTN said it began the modernisation network programme in 2019, to ensure readiness for the much-anticipated release of 4G and 5G spectrum.
This leaves MTN well-placed to deploy the spectrum in the 700/800Mhz and 2,600Mhz bands sooner than other bands of spectrum.
The deployment of 3.5GHz will require additional antenna infrastructure.
“The deployment of 700/800Mhz and 2,600MHz bands has commenced, and we anticipate concluding the rollout plan in the next four to five weeks,” MTN said.
Telkom spokesperson Noma Faku told MyBroadband they are in the process of deploying the temporary additional spectrum in the identified sites and areas.
“The deployment of the temporary spectrum bands will require new radio units which are band-specific,” Faku said.
“We are fast-tracking the ordering process for equipment in order to ensure network deployment soonest.”
Rain CEO Willem Roos confirmed that they have received temporary spectrum license from ICASA in the 2,600MHz band.
However, the frequencies allocated were not what they asked for and are therefore not suitable for rapid deployment with their current radios.
“We received a portion of spectrum “below” our existing band but requested spectrum “above” our band as our radios are only compatible with spectrum above the existing allocation,” said Roos.
“This issue can be rectified by rearranging the temporary frequency allocation in the band. We are working with ICASA to achieve this goal,” he said.
Liquid Telecom South Africa said it has received the additional temporary spectrum from ICASA as part of the Covid-19 crisis management efforts by government.
“We are putting plans in place on how best to maximize the impact of the additional spectrum, to assist our customers during these uncertain times,” Liquid Telecom said.