The proposed wholesale open access network must get all unassigned spectrum in 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5GHz frequency bands.
This is according to Openserve CEO Alphonzo Samuels, who was speaking at a Department of Telecommunications workshop on the ECA Amendment Bill.
“The wireless open access network (WOAN) is a pragmatic instrument to level the playing field in a way that enables smaller and emerging operators to access currently-unassigned high-demand spectrum,” said Samuels.
Samuels said they are not in favour of the Bill’s proposal to take back spectrum already assigned to operators, however.
Assigned spectrum should remain with the operators, as forcing its return will negatively affect investor confidence, he said.
Samuels added that there is no disagreement between the mobile operators regarding the establishment of the WOAN, and they all tend to support a variant of the “hybrid model”.
Where players like Vodacom want to determine how much spectrum the WOAN needs, though, Telkom believes all available spectrum should go to the WOAN.
A spectrum auction may bring money into the fiscus, but it will not resolve the lack of competition in the industry, it said.
“Those operators that historically benefited will benefit from an auction,” he said.
Plan of action
Telkom suggested a phased deployment plan for the WOAN, and said the department should consider practical matters – such as access to infrastructure.
Samuels said the WOAN should be able to access state-owned buildings and other locations for high sites.
It should also be given access to the infrastructure of mobile network operators at reasonable prices, so it can access current high sites.
For the first phase of the deployment, existing 3G networks should be overlayed with an LTE network. This will involve the addition of new radios and antennas, as well as baseband equipment and backhaul facilities.
In phase two, the WOAN must expand to rural and underserved areas, and fill coverage gaps.
During the final phase of the rollout, the WOAN will be upgraded to support 5G technologies and fixed-wireless services.