Telkom, Dimension Data execs throw down over spectrum auctions

During a recent panel discussion at SATNAC 2011, hosted by Telkom in East London, there was a lively debate between Nombulelo “Pinky” Moholi, Telkom SA group CEO, and Andile Ngcaba, executive chairman of Dimension Data, about how spectrum licensing should be handled in South Africa.

The discussion was kicked off by Ngcaba who responded to a statement that government needs to speed up decision-making pertaining to the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, specifically spectrum allocation.

The spectrum in question is the frequencies in the 2.6GHz band and the digital dividend around 800MHz, typically associated with high speed wireless technologies such as LTE.

Ngcaba said that one option to address the problem would be for industry players to meet and produce a document that offers some options to government on how it should deal with spectrum.

He said that the problem was that those who are spectrum rich want to continue being rich while those who are spectrum poor want “a piece of the action.”

While Ngcaba raised the question of how they would align interests within the private sector, he also said that he believed they could produce over a weekend a document with three or so options for dealing with the issue.

SATNAC 2011 panel - Nombulelo "Pinky" Moholi, Doug Reed, Andile Ngcaba
Nombulelo "Pinky" Moholi, Douglas Reed, Andile Ngcaba

Douglas Reed, CEO of Vox Telecom, added that the spectrum needs to be auctioned fast and that there needs to be a use-it-or-lose-it policy.

Ngcaba argued that auctions aren’t the best option because they exclude operators who may have the technical expertise to roll out networks on those frequencies, but don’t have the cash on hand to compete in an auction.

Telkom SA’s group CEO Pinky Moholi responded to Ngcaba with a challenge: find a hybrid model that also removes the influence of lobbying. According to Moholi, an auction would remove the lobbying of government by private sector players for their slice of the spectrum pie.

She suggested a model where some of the spectrum would be auctioned to operators who wish to build their own networks while a portion would be allocated for the deployment of an open access national wireless network.

Jan Vermeulen is a guest of Telkom at SATNAC 2011

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Telkom, Dimension Data execs throw down over spectrum auctions