South Africa releases plans for mobile network capacity

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has published its draft radio frequency migration plan (RFMP) and a draft International Mobile Telecommunication roadmap (IMT-R) for public consultation.

Icasa said these draft documents aim to ensure proper alignment and coordination of the allocation and assignment of radio frequency spectrum in South Africa.

According to the regulator, the draft RFMP is required to bring the South African National Radio Frequency Plan in line with the Final Acts of the World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC–23).

This, in turn, will align South Africa with the latest resolutions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations.

Icasa explained that the draft RFMP sets out particular changes and requirements for specific radio communications frequency spectrum, including those identified for IMT (i.e. mobile networks).

Spectrum is the raw wireless network capacity operators use to communicate between their towers and mobile devices like smartphones.

In addition to the RFMP, Icasa has also published an IMT roadmap for public comment.

It said the draft IMT-R deals specifically with its proposals for allocating and assigning spectrum earmarked for mobile services and identified IMT systems.

Icasa said the roadmap aims to align with the prescripts of the National Radio Frequency Plan (NRFP) of 2021, the Final Acts of WRC–23, and the ITU’s Radio Regulations.

Among other provisions in the National Radio Frequency Plan of 2021 is the incorporation of globally harmonised frequency bands in the Low, Mid and High ranges identified for IMT, said Icasa.

“[This is] to reap the benefits associated with the capabilities of IMT–2020 (5G), IMT–2030 (6G) and beyond, given the ongoing evolution of the generations of mobile technologies,” the regulator said.

Icasa also said that global and regional harmonisation of radio frequency spectrum is important.

It explained that harmonisation allows South Africa to enjoy the benefits of economies of scale and scope, and to warrant the introduction of new technologies, creating a positive ripple effect.

“In recent years, mobile broadband services have emerged as the most popular solution for the advancement of broadband technologies and related communication services,” Icasa stated.

“[This encouraged] the Authority to put in place critical steps and responses to national expectations, through the IMT Roadmap which was last updated in 2019.”

Icasa said a key driver for the deployment of IMT radio frequency spectrum bands is the need to ensure that mobile broadband plays its role in meeting the vision of “Broadband for All” encapsulated in the SA Connect and the National Development Plan 2030.

“The proposed updates to the Radio Frequency Migration Plan and the IMT Roadmap are imperative to meet and comply with the evolving requirements set forth by the ITU,” said Icasa acting chair Cathrine Mushi.

“With a steadfast commitment to long-term spectrum planning, our aim is to guarantee the optimal allocation of spectrum, prioritising its assignment to those who value it most. This ensures the highest efficiency in spectrum utilisation,” Mushi said.

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South Africa releases plans for mobile network capacity