Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has announced the withdrawal of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill.
The bill dealt with the allocation of spectrum for mobile networks and the establishment of the WOAN (Wholesale Open Access Network), and was heavily criticised by the telecommunications industry.
Mobile networks argued that the bill would simply serve to delay the allocation of spectrum, and fought the government to rule out the possibility of the WOAN taking all spectrum from operators.
The withdrawal of the bill was welcomed by the DA, who first reported the announcement to the public.
“The withdrawal of the bill is a defeat for former department officials who played a key role in crafting the ICT Policy White paper, starting in 2013, and its subsequent conversion into the bill,” the party said.
“The DA looks forward to a more dynamic, investor-friendly regulatory environment that promotes innovation and competition.”
Networks happy with decision
Vodacom and Telkom said they welcomed the decision to withdraw the ECA Amendment Bill and looked forward to engaging with the government on the future of the telecommunications sector.
“Vodacom welcomes the decision to withdraw the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill,” said Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub.
“Vodacom is of the view that government’s objectives for the sector – in terms of increasing the affordability and reach of broadband, and accelerating economic transformation – can be achieved within the current legislative framework.”
“In particular, we are encouraged that the ministry holds the view that the private sector must play a greater role in the development of the telecommunications industry,” he added.
Joosub said that it was important for South Africa to be at the forefront of 5G licensing and development, which would require the release of high-demand spectrum.
“The release of this available spectrum will be instrumental in reducing the cost of carrying a megabyte of data and ultimately in accelerating the decline in effective data prices in South Africa,” he said.
Telkom told MyBroadband that it also welcomes the move.
“We welcome the bill’s withdrawal as we think this is an opportunity for government to engage with the sector and agree on a set of priorities to inspire investments that will promote growth and effective competition,” Telkom stated.
MTN Executive for Corporate Affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan told MyBroadband that it is awaiting further clarity on the matter.
“MTN notes Minister’s decision to withdraw the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill and we awaits further clarity on the matter,” O’Sullivan said.
Cell C said it was not aware of any official announcement regarding the withdrawal of the bill but said it would consider the implications.