Government wants one big mobile network for everyone

The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, has unveiled the National Integrated Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Policy White Paper on Sunday.

“This integrated ICT Policy outlines supply-side measures that will ensure the roll-out of quality communications and broadband infrastructure to reach all areas of the country to ensure universal access and services,” Cwele said.

“In this regard it contains a new Open Access policy that allows access to existing and future networks by all and importantly by new entrants and SMMEs. This policy aspect will reduce the duplications in infrastructure roll-out and minimize the cost of extending the networks to reach the entire country.”

It also contains a new spectrum policy that facilitates spectrum sharing and equal access to the spectrum by all licensed operators, new entrants and SMMEs.

Here are some of the highlights of the new ICT Policy White Paper.

Net neutrality

The policy introduces the principles of open Internet and the net neutrality framework to ensure that all lawful and legal Internet traffic is treated equally.

Internet traffic, the policy said, must be treated without discrimination, restriction or interference, regardless of the sender, receiver, content, device, service, or application.

This will preserve the free Internet and pre-empt possible unfair treatment by intermediaries.

Open Access

Open access – where wholesale access is provided to electronic communications network infrastructure or services on terms that are reasonable, effective, transparent and non-discriminatory – is applicable to all networks.

Open access aims to, amongst others, facilitate infrastructure sharing, address market dominance and market concentration and competition.

Entities that control critical resources will be obliged to provide access to essential facilities at regulated, cost-based prices.

Wireless Open Access Network

The Wireless Open Access Network (OAN) will be a public-private sector-owned and managed consortium, and will consist of entities that are interested in participating.

Participants may include current holders of electronic communications service (ECS) and electronic communications network service (ECNS) licenses, infrastructure companies, private equity investors, SMMEs, Internet Service Providers, Over The Top players and Mobile Virtual Network Operators.

The participation of existing ECNS licensees will speed up the ability of the Wireless OAN to meet its coverage objective.

Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy

This policy puts forward measures to support a paradigm shift towards non-exclusive assignment of highly contested spectrum in bands where demand exceeds the amount of spectrum available.

Historically, spectrum for mobile has been assigned to individual licensees who are then given exclusive rights to it for a defined period in a defined geographic area.

The new spectrum management regime set out in this policy encourages that licensees work together as far as it is practicable. This includes through the deployment of a Wireless Open Access Network.

The value of sharing and collaboration between licensees is that it will result in the more effective use of a scarce resource (spectrum) and the reduction of the duplication of infrastructure while facilitating services based competition.

High demand spectrum bands

All high demand spectrum will be assigned on an open access basis. All currently unassigned high demand spectrum will be set aside for assignment to the Wireless Open Access Network and will be treated in line with the above policy principle.

More on spectrum and policy

ICT Policy White Paper for South Africa gets Cabinet approval

Spectrum auction postponed, BEE requirements relaxed

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Government wants one big mobile network for everyone