The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Department of Communications (DoC) have yet to finalise its Rapid Deployment Guidelines, which many telecoms operators feel is vital if operators are to achieve the Government’s national broadband targets.
The Rapid Deployment Guidelines will assist operators by streamlining the application processes that are required for approval to initiate civil works in the deployment of network infrastructure on both public and private land.
Getting approval for telecoms network rollouts has been a problem in the past, delaying the growth of many fibre and wireless network.
Rapid Deployment Guidelines stuck at ICASA
In April 2012 ICASA said that it was “well advanced” with their rapid network deployment plan. At the time Christian Mhlanga, senior manager at ICASA, said that they are working hard to alleviate the red tape associated with deploying telecoms networks.
Mhlanga said in March 2012 that ICASA has already drafted a comprehensive plan to facilitate easier network deployments in SA, and were in the process of finalizing the documentation which will then be sent to the Department of Communications (DoC).
Fast forward a year, and it seems that these guidelines are ‘stuck’ somewhere at ICASA.
Neotel said that industry came together and drafted the guidelines and submitted this to ICASA.
“We await ICASA’s approval of the guidelines where-after we assume that ICASA would make a recommendation to the Minister of Communications to adopt these guidelines,” said Neotel.
Rapid Deployment Guidelines mess before ICASA
This is not the first attempt to make it easier for telecoms operators to deploy networks. On 27 February 2008 the DoC published its Proposed Guidelines For Rapid Deployment of Electronic Communications Facilities.
However, some people saw these guidelines as an ill-fated attempt by the DoC to hijack this legislation to influence undersea cable landings in South Africa.
On 11 August 2011 the DoC withdrew these proposed guidelines, after which ICASA was burdened with the task of creating these guidelines.
Operators asking for help with network rollouts
Robert Madzonga, chief corporate services officer at MTN SA, said that the rapid deployment of infrastructure is vital if operators are to achieve the Government’s national broadband targets as envisaged in the National Development Plan and the Broadband Policy.
“MTN provided its input in the development of these guidelines and it is hoped that this process will be finalised as soon as possible,” said Madzonga.
“The challenge is in finding a framework that can be implemented in practice,” said Boorman.
Neotel also raised concerns that the planned guidelines might well not be legally binding as they will be a guide.
“Recent draft amendments to the ECA propose that ICASA develop regulations to deal with disputes between landowners and licensees,” said Neotel.
“However, it is unknown if and when such amendments will be effected, and it is likely to be an even longer period of time before regulations are passed if the amendment is carried.”
ICASA was asked for feedback regarding the rapid deployment guidelines, but the regulator did not respond to questions regarding the delay.