Rain ready to launch business products — but TV stations need to climb out of its spectrum

Rain is trialling new products and packages for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, it can’t launch until South African broadcasters switch off their analogue TV signals.

“Rain will bring a wider range of products and packages targeting the small to medium enterprises market,” a Rain spokesperson told MyBroadband.

“Trials are underway, and once we have access to the sub-1GHz spectrum, some sites will be activated immediately.”

This wouldn’t be earlier than the end of June.

“The 700MHz band cannot be fully utilised until the migration to digital broadcasting is fully completed, which is still expected to be by no later than the end of June 2022,” they said.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) gave South African broadcasters until 30 June to move off their old analogue TV frequencies.

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni had set the analogue switch-off date at 31 March.

However, Icasa said a transition period was required before the total analogue TV switch-off could be completed.

This would give mobile network operators time to migrate their services out of the spectrum Icasa had temporarily assigned for use during South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Icasa’s announcement of the analogue switch-off extension came hours before the Pretoria High Court ordered Ntshavheni to move the switch-off date to 30 June.

E-tv had brought a case against the minister, arguing that she was irrationally rushing the analogue switch-off.

The broadcaster said this would cut off South Africa’s most needy from one of their primary sources of information and entertainment, and hurt E-tv’s bottom line.

Although the court ordered a three-month delay, the ruling was a loss for E-tv, which had hoped for an extra 12 or 15 months. E-tv has since launched an appeal.

Brandon Leigh, New Rain CEO
Brandon Leigh, Rain CEO

Icasa announced the winners of the long-anticipated spectrum auction in March 2022.

Rain acquired 40MHz in the 700MHz and 2,600MHz bands. The 40MHz is split evenly between the two.

The cellular network operator spent nearly R1.5 billion acquiring the spectrum.

Established players like Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom have long promised that additional spectrum would help drop data prices in South Africa.

However, Rain CEO Brandon Leigh said it could be a while before that becomes a reality.

Leigh previously explained that data prices would not decrease anytime soon as mobile network operators would first have to invest time and billions of rands to deploy network infrastructure.

Leigh added that the spectrum would eventually offer cost advantages, but this would only come “over time”.

Now read: MTN hits contract customers with very high increases

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Rain ready to launch business products — but TV stations need to climb out of its spectrum