South African government will hold 4G spectrum auction by April 2019

South Africa will hold a long-delayed auction of 4G mobile spectrum by April as the government seeks to extend high-speed internet to a greater portion of Africa’s most industrialized economy, said Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

The sale is likely to attract interest from wireless carriers including Vodacom Group Ltd. and MTN Group Ltd., which have long bemoaned a lack of opportunities to expand services. An auction was delayed in previous years by a dispute between the government and the industry regulator over how to proceed.

“The auction next year will ensure continued investment by the operators, who invest 25 billion rand ($1.7 billion) a year,” Cwele said. “A block of spectrum will also be made available for new entrants into the sector.”

A spectrum auction could help reduce prices, the minister said.

It would follow two years of policy uncertainty that made investors reluctant to put cash into the industry, Vodacom Chief Executive Officer Shameel Joosub said at a conference in Johannesburg.

Vodacom’s shares have declined 18 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent fall on the FTSE/JSE Africa Top40 Index.

The government will go on to offer 5G licenses by 2020, Cwele said.

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South African government will hold 4G spectrum auction by April 2019