Break the Vodacom-MTN duopoly – Telkom

If ICASA is going to consider releasing additional wireless network capacity for 5G, it must do so to improve competition, Telkom has stated.

“What is critical for [us] is that any spectrum made available must address the current market concentration in the duopoly of Vodacom and MTN,” Telkom told MyBroadband.

“Any spectrum coming to the market must therefore improve competition in the market by allowing smaller operators an opportunity to compete.”

Telkom made the statement in response to questions regarding the assignment of high-demand spectrum for 5G networks – specifically on whether the government’s wireless open access network (WOAN) should also receive spectrum.

The WOAN is part of the Department of Telecommunications plan to increase competition among cellular networks in South Africa.

The idea is that it will make it possible for more companies to launch cellular services by offering wholesale access to wireless network infrastructure.

MTN recently told MyBroadband that work on releasing additional radio frequency spectrum for use in 5G networks must start now.

If the country waits for the obstacles preventing 4G spectrum from being assigned to be resolved before starting the 5G process, MTN warned we will be left behind when the rest of the world starts rolling out 5G technology.

Vodacom agreed, and suggested ICASA start by looking at spectrum in the 3.3GHz and 3.8GHz bands, and under-utilised frequencies in the 26GHz bands.

Telkom disagreed, however, and said many of the particulars around the standards for IMT-2020 (referred to as 5G) will only be finalised in November 2019.

Telkom explained that the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019 (WRC-19) will decide on the frequency bands, as well as the associated technical and regulatory requirements, for 5G.

“Once the WRC-19 has decided, IMT-2020 spectrum can be licensed based on national needs and availability of the identified frequency bands,” said Telkom.

Should the WOAN get 5G spectrum?

On the topic of whether the WOAN should receive 5G spectrum, Telkom said it doesn’t have a strong opinion on the path ICASA follows.

“Telkom is agnostic on the assignment methodology, be it to the WOAN, hybrid, or otherwise,” it said.

The important issue was whether it would address the market dominance of MTN and Vodacom, it added.

The hybrid model Telkom referred to is where mobile network operators and government’s wholesale wireless network all receive spectrum.

By contrast, Vodacom stated that all operators with an Electronic Communications Network Service Licence from ICASA should be free to participate in any spectrum assignment process.

The process should be transparent, non-discriminatory, and ensure the most efficient use of scarce spectrum resources, said Vodacom.

“We’ve previously stated that Vodacom supports a hybrid approach between existing regulations and government’s proposed WOAN,” said the company.

“We believe there is a place for a WOAN in South Africa which could assist smaller industry players through the allocation of spectrum. This would also allow the bigger operators to grow.”

Now read: The big 5G debate in South Africa

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Break the Vodacom-MTN duopoly – Telkom