What the 5G spectrum delay means for mobile networks

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is preparing to publish invitations to apply for the licensing high-demand radio frequency spectrum.

While progress has been made, ICASA acting chairperson Dimakatso Qocha said there has been a slight delay in the publications of the ITAs.

“The Authority remains committed to its plans of releasing spectrum that will see different sectors of the society benefiting, and participating meaningfully in the digital economy,” Qocha said.

“The Authority further recognizes the need for effective deployment, uptake and use of information and communications technology, and global interconnectedness to speed up human interaction; and to bridge the digital divide among South Africans,” ICASA added.

“The Authority would, therefore, like to assure all stakeholders that it is working earnestly to ensure that the processes are completed without undue delay.”

“However, adherence to the due administrative process, both substantively and procedurally, is more fundamental to these licensing processes,” ICASA said.

There have been plenty of delays to the licensing of high-demand spectrum over the past few years, meaning ICASA’s confirmation of delays in the process may be met with trepidation by many in the industry.

For this reason, MyBroadband asked the relevant mobile networks what the delay means for their businesses.


Vodacom said that it remains hopeful that there will not be a gap between the expiration of temporary spectrum and the licensing of permanent spectrum.

“Additional spectrum is necessary for us to continue to support the increase in traffic which we have experienced during the state of national disaster lockdown,” said Vodacom.

“The allocation of new spectrum will help Vodacom to reduce input costs, especially for providing data services.

“It will help us to increase network capacity more efficiently, optimise our network investment and help us to further reduce data costs in future,” said Vodacom.

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MTN said it was uncertain whether the delay of the ITA means the licensing of spectrum will follow suit.

“While the expected release of the ITA has been slightly delayed, it is yet to be determined whether this will result in a delay in licensing permanent spectrum or merely a reduced timeframe for the ITA process,” said MTN.

“MTN has been assigned temporary spectrum until the 30th of November and we believe the licencing of spectrum will follow soon after.”

“MTN believes that the licensing of high demand spectrum remains crucial in easing the deployment of digital infrastructure to South Africans to provide all our people with access to the economy and to bridge the digital divide that is currently so vast between the haves and ‘have-nots’,” said MTN.


Telkom said that the proposed auctioning of high demand spectrum is long overdue, and is supported by Telkom.

“What is critical, however, is that ICASA uses this auction to address the concentration in the mobile market which hampers effective competition as identified by both ICASA and the Competition Commission,” said Telkom.

“A properly designed auction could result in more effective competition.”

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What the 5G spectrum delay means for mobile networks