WOAN spectrum assignment will hurt 5G rollout in South Africa – Telkom

Telkom Group CEO Sipho Maseko has voiced the business’s displeasure at ICASA allocation of spectrum to the wireless open-access network (WOAN).

Maseko was commenting in Telkom’s interim results document for the six months ended 30 September 2020.

“The spectrum assigned to the wireless open-access network is unlikely to drive effective rollout of 5G in South Africa,” said Maseko.

Maseko also argued that that ICASA’s definition of the mobile telecommunications market is too narrow.

“We are however disappointed by ICASA’s narrow definition of the market which is likely to entrench the skewed structure of the market,” said Maseko.

Telkom noted that despite these issues, it is prepared to purchase spectrum in the upcoming auction.

“Through our improved cash generation and positive FCF due to optimised working capital and continued cash release initiatives, we have been able to strengthen our balance sheet, providing us with sufficient headroom to fund spectrum acquisition through debt,” said Telkom.

Maseko also acknowledged that the release of the Invitation to Apply (ITA) for spectrum is a “significant step” in the development of the ICT sector in South Africa.

“It is an opportunity for Telkom to acquire the much-needed sub 1GHz and we are pleased that ICASA has excluded the disputed 2,300 MHz band,” said Maseko.

ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng previously explained that it put this spectrum on hold because it still needs to “conduct a feasibility study to establish the destination band for the Fixed Services in the band.”

Value of temporary spectrum

Telkom also said it saw tremendous growth in demand for mobile data due to the national lockdown.

“During the lockdown, we saw a surge in mobile network traffic for our mobile services due to more people working from home. Our mobile traffic grew 80.8% to 479 petabytes,” said Telkom.

It received great value from the temporary spectrum it received from ICASA.

“We continued with the mobile network expansion programme with an emphasis on 4G and the deployment of temporary spectrum in support of South Africa’s COVID-19 response,” said Telkom.

“Furthermore, we completed a number of temporary spectrum upgrades and are integrating these into the network. A total of 17 massive multiple-input and multiple-output sites were completed to cater for abnormally high demand for data at selected sites,” Telkom added.

“We also upgraded over 30% of our base station backhaul links to cater for data growth and the impact of COVID-19.”

Now read: Big growth for Telkom Mobile

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WOAN spectrum assignment will hurt 5G rollout in South Africa – Telkom