Minister publishes CSIR spectrum report and draft Policy Direction

The Minister of Telecommunications Siyabonga Cwele has invited the public to comment on the draft of the spectrum policy direction for ICASA.

Cwele’s policy direction will instruct ICASA to issue an invitation to apply (ITA) for high-demand telecommunications radio frequency spectrum.

This spectrum represents the capacity of a wireless network, such as those built by Vodacom and MTN.

South Africa’s mobile networks have been pleading with ICASA for years to assign them more spectrum.

Cwele will also direct ICASA to issue the necessary ITAs to license the wholesale open access network (WOAN). This includes the licence it needs to operate as a network provider, and the spectrum it needs to operate a wholesale cellular network.

As per the hybrid model compromise reached between Cwele and network providers, the WOAN is to receive a portion of the available spectrum – while the rest will be licensed to the industry.

In exchange, any operator which receives a licence to use high-demand spectrum must buy some of the WOAN’s capacity to ensure that a minimum of 30% of the available capacity is spoken for.

This is to ensure that the WOAN is sustainable, and that operators don’t simply focus on building their own networks using their own spectrum.

An additional requirement on those who receive spectrum is that they must open up their networks to the WOAN on a wholesale open access basis.

CSIR spectrum requirement for the WOAN

Cwele has also published an abridged version of the spectrum requirements report prepared by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Cwele’s policy direction, as it stands in draft, directs ICASA to consider the recommendations of the CSIR study.

The key recommendations the CSIR made were as follows:

  • Consider setting aside only a portion of spectrum for the WOAN, and the remaining to other licensees.
  • Consider 20% of possible user population in 2020 as a baseline to ensure viability of WOAN — that is 10.3 million users by 2020, requiring 40MHz of downlink spectrum.
  • The following spectrum combinations should be set aside for the WOAN as a minimum. These satisfy the baseline user population, as well as provide enough capacity for high-end users:
    1. 2 × 25MHz in the 800 band (Band 20).
    2. 2 × 20MHz in the 2600 band, configured in frequency-division duplex (Band 7).
    3. 25MHz of the 2600 band, configured in time-division duplex (Band 38).

Interested persons have until 8 November 2018 to provide written comments on the policy and policy direction.

Now read: Ramaphosa told Telecommunications Minister to speed up 4G and 5G spectrum

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Minister publishes CSIR spectrum report and draft Policy Direction