The government has instructed the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to enable the temporary licensing of all available spectrum bands.
Telecoms operators have seen an increase in traffic on their networks after people started to work from home amidst the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa.
A recent Delta Partners report said some mobile operators have seen a 40% increase in voice traffic and a 25% increase in data traffic.
These increased traffic volumes required network operators to increase network capacity and manage traffic loads to ensure a good customer experience.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told MyBroadband they are engaging with ICASA to gain access to spectrum on a temporary basis as well as quicker access to sites.
Vodacom has also taken a decision to significantly ramp up investment spend in the short term to manage network congestion.
New directives from the Minister of Communications
Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has now published new directives to fast-track the temporary licensing of high-demand spectrum.
- The authority must prioritise the regulatory framework applicable to the management and licensing of radio frequency spectrum that would enable implementation of this direction on an urgent basis.
- To the extent possible, the authority must relax spectrum regulations to enable the temporary licensing of all available spectrum bands including the unassigned high-demand spectrum for the duration of the COVID-19 national disaster.
- The temporary assignment of the unassigned high-demand frequency spectrum must be focused on those licensees that would be able to implement and use unassigned frequency spectrum for duration of the COVID-19 national disaster on expeditious basis. Frequency coordination and planning will be necessary to effect this assignment.
This additional spectrum can be rolled out out across a network very quickly and is an easy and affordable way for mobile networks to increase capacity.
Good engagements with the government
Rain CEO Willem Roos said they have had constructive engagements with the government on a daily basis regarding network capacity and the licensing of additional spectrum.
He said they are eagerly awaiting the moment that temporary spectrum is made available to mobile operators.
“It is absolutely crucial for us to get access to additional spectrum to reduce the cost of providing data together with having the capacity,” said Roos.
“It is one of the few levers we can pull relatively quickly. Should we get extra spectrum we can deploy it on existing networks without engaging in big infrastructure builds.”
“Literally from behind our computers in our data centres we can deploy that spectrum and make more capacity available.”
He added that some of the additional spectrum will require infrastructure builds, but will still be very valuable to the industry.