The Presidency has told the Department of Telecommunications (DTPS) to speed up its decision on the allocation of critical radio frequency spectrum for wireless networks.
This is according to Robert Nkuna, director-general of the department, who was speaking at Telkom’s annual SATNAC in Hermanus.
Nkuna said they will allocate a lot of spectrum in the 2.6GHz, 700MHz, and 800MHz frequency bands.
Once allocated, the ICASA will be able to invite network operators to apply for licences to use the spectrum.
It is worth noting that the 700MHz and 800MHz that Nkuna mentioned fall within the “digital dividend”. These frequencies will be available when South Africa completes its migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting.
The former Minister of Communications, Mmamoloko Kubayi, most recently set the deadline for the migration to June 2019.
The DTPS previously said it aims to license outstanding 4G and digital dividend spectrum by March 2019.
The DTPS has also released its Amendment Bill for the Electronic Communications Act, which is set to be tabled in Parliament.
This bill states that ICASA needs to license a wholesale open access network operator, after being directed to do so through a DTPS policy direction. It also states that the DTPS must develop a national radio frequency plan.
There is therefore a lot of work that the DTPS must complete before ICASA may issue invitations to apply for spectrum licences.
Another band that the DTPS is aiming to license is 3.5GHz, a popular initial band for 5G.
Nkuna said there are some views that the DTPS should allocate all four of these spectrum bands – the 700MHz and 800MHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5Ghz – at the same time.
However, they need to move faster and allocate the first three bands as soon as possible.
They can then allocate the remaining 3.5GHz band soon after the World Radio Conference (WRC-19) in November next year, with the aim to make South Africa among the first countries to roll out 5G.
On the agenda for the conference is a discussion around radio frequencies which are earmarked for use by 5G networks.
Telkom recently told MyBroadband that WRC-19 will decide on the frequency bands for 5G, as well as the associated technical and regulatory requirements.