Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has gazetted a new policy on the deployment of communications networks in South Africa.
The policy aims to accommodate the accelerated deployment of electronic communications networks, such as LTE and 5G networks.
The policy gives mobile networks and other licensees the right to select, enter, and use public or private land for the deployment of their network infrastructure.
Any infrastructure built on this land would belong to the network which built it, and property owners are directed to avoid damage to the facilities built on their property.
“If such electronic communications networks or facilities are damaged due to the fault of a property owner, reasonable compensation agreed to between the property owner and the electronic communications network service licensee is payable,” the policy states.
This direction would also apply to the wholesale open-access network (WOAN) proposed by the government.
The policy goes on to state that licensees who wish to build communications infrastructure on a property must provide the owner with a notice that includes the following information:
- The reasons for engaging in the activity
- The date of commencement of such activity
- The objection process to its plans
- The planned location of the installation
- Environmental, water, health, and safety information
Additionally, owners may not charge companies for building infrastructure on their property, except under certain conditions.
These include cases where more intrusive electronic communications networks or facilities, such as masts, are erected on a property.
“In such cases, any access fee must be reasonable in proportion to the disadvantage suffered and must not enrich the property owner or exploit the electronic communications network service licensee,” the policy states.
Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams specifically mentions the advent of 5G technology in the policy, stating that these guidelines will help to enable the rapid and unhindered deployment of many 5G towers across the county.
“Rights of way will become increasingly important to deploy massive numbers of small cells for 5G and backhaul to connect the cells,” the policy states.
“Significant effort must be made by all spheres of government to enable the rapid deployment of electronic communications networks and facilities since these networks are critical enablers for our advancement as a country in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
Regulations and implementation
It should be noted that this policy is currently open to written comments from interested parties, and will be until 30 working days after the date of publication.
Comments submitted after this date will be disregarded.
As soon as possible after this public consultation, the Minister will issue a final policy direction to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
ICASA will then be tasked with drawing up and implementing the regulations to implement the direction outlined in the policy.
“The purpose of the proposed policy direction is to direct the Authority to prescribe regulations on procedures and processes for resolving disputes that may arise between an electronic communications network service licensee and any landowner, in order to satisfy the public interest in the rapid rollout of electronic communications networks and electronic communications facilities,” the Minister said.
Interested parties can provide written comments on the proposed policy and policy direction within 30 working days of the date of publication. Comments submitted after this date will be disregarded.
The relevant gazette is embedded below.