ICASA has issued regulations which state that network operators must send subscribers regular SMS messages about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, the regulations state that operators must send at least two public announcements per day regarding the prevention and management of COVID-19.
They must also send notifications of all announcements by the Minister of Health or the Presidency.
These SMS messages must be free of charge to subscribers.
ICASA does not limit the obligations to South Africa’s major cellular networks only – it has made them applicable to all operators which have Electronic Communications Services and Electronic Communications Network Services licences, and have access to IMT Radio Frequency Spectrum assignments.
The provisions above were part of ICASA’s regulations on the information and communications technology industry for the duration of the national state of disaster.
The regulations were released on 6 April and are titled, The ICT COVID–19 National Disaster Regulations.
These regulations also include guidance on the temporary assignment of high-demand spectrum.
This spectrum will be released for the duration of the national state of disaster and is expected to ease network congestion.
It should also enable operators to maintain the quality of their broadband services and enable licensees to lower the cost of access to consumers.
Under these regulations, licensees may share radio frequency spectrum assigned to alleviate the challenges of network capacity.
Three months after the termination of the National State of Disaster, this temporary spectrum will be revoked.
Networks must also provide a network report detailing the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on their network and indicate areas which are especially constrained.
Mobile networks who are issued with temporary spectrum will also need to provide benefits to consumers, such as reduced data prices and free daily bundles.