The Council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) says it has resolved that the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to network operators must be returned by 30 November 2021.
Icasa said the temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited Invitation to Apply during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has since twice extended the duration of the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment — the last expiry date being 31 August 2021.
Icasa said it has taken into account the current environment in relation to the number of infections, the gradual reopening of the economy, and the steady progress in the vaccination program.
“More importantly, the Authority is mindful of the need to focus its efforts on the permanent licensing of spectrum,” Icasa stated, adding that it is important that the industry be allowed adequate time to plan and adjust their operations.
“The Authority’s interventions with regards to the release of the temporary radio frequency spectrum have indeed contributed immensely to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensuring that South Africans were, and continue to be, able to communicate during these unprecedented times,” said Icasa chair Keabetswe Modimoeng.
“However, the Authority cannot allow the temporary spectrum assignment to assume a state of permanence.”
Modimoeng said that, having allowed operators to use the temporarily assigned spectrum for a period of seventeen months, it is reasonable that they be allowed a further three months as a winding down period.
To allow the licensees to wind down their operations on the temporary spectrum, and to notify consumers about the impact thereof on their service offerings, Icasa has resolved to amend the Covid-19 National Disaster Regulations to provide for continued use of the temporary radio frequency spectrum until 30 November 2021.