ICASA to correct Neotel spectrum mistake

ICASA recently released its ‘Spectrum Usage & Spare Broadcasting Frequencies Q1-Q4’, listing all assigned and available spectrum in the various spectrum bands.

This document release follows legal action from the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) who said that the absence of a publicly available list of spectrum assigned to the various telecoms players in the country is a stumbling block in applying for spectrum.

According to ISPA all holders of ECNS licenses have the right to apply to ICASA for licensed radio frequency spectrum with which to provide backbone and access services. “ISPA’s position is that its members who hold ECNS licenses are not able to exercise this right properly in the absence of knowing what frequency is actually available,” said ISPA legal adviser Dominic Cull.

“ISPA further believes that, as a general principle, details of frequency assignments (other than those to security cluster institutions) should be in the public domain so as to allow a proper evaluation of whether this important yet limited public resource is being used efficiently.”

ICASA Spectrum Usage & Spare Broadcasting Frequencies Q1-Q4 document

ICASA’s ‘Spectrum Usage & Spare Broadcasting Frequencies Q1-Q4’ document however seems to be incomplete.  Neotel’s 800 MHz spectrum is not listed in the document, and spectrum assigned in the 3.5 GHz band also raises a few questions.

ICASA confirmed that Neotel does indeed have 800MHz spectrum, and that “The Authority will look into the spectrum assignments document to rectify the mistake that might have been captured.”

ICASA further explained that the entire 3.5GHz band is 200 MHz in total, and that this band is subdivided in terms of ITU-R F1488. “The Tx/Rx separation is 100MHz and the following operators are currently licensed in the band as follows, Telkom (2x28MHz), Neotel (2x28MHz) and Sentech (2×14 MHz),” ICASA said.

“There is 2x14MHz which was reserved for the then USALs. This can still be used regionally where it has not been assigned. The only spectrum that is fully available in the band is the 2x14MHz.  Further note that the 2x2MHz is left as guard band in the centre,” said ICASA.

The document however indicates that “1x 28 MHz FDD” has been assigned to Telkom and Neotel, and that Sentech and the USALs have “1x 14 MHz FDD” each. 

ICASA should be commended

ISPA GM Ant Brooks said that ICASA should be commended for releasing the spectrum document, adding that it is an important first step in providing more transparency regarding spectrum assignment and usage in South Africa.

Publicly available spectrum information means that industry players and the public can give their feedback about the information to ICASA, something which will also assist ICASA to improve the quality of information in their possession.

Brooks however encouraged the regulator to build on the current document and extend it to include actual spectrum usage and other relevant information.

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ICASA to correct Neotel spectrum mistake