ICASA reveals prices and dates for 4G and 5G spectrum auction

ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng has provided details about the spectrum that it auction to mobile networks and the WOAN.

“We have all been waiting for this day and through consultation with all relevant stakeholders, guided by the empowering legislation including the law of administrative justice and procedural fairness, the ICASA Council has taken a decision and approved that the licensing process for spectrum can now go-ahead,” said Modimoeng.

“We would like to thank all stakeholders who made submissions to ICASA on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the markets and related issues, following our media statement earlier this month. Their contributions really helped us to come to the decision we are announcing today.”

ICASA announced that the Invitation to Apply (ITA) for both the WOAN and the IMT spectrum will be available no later than Friday 2 October 2020.

The closing date for the publication ITA for IMT Spectrum is 28 December 2020, while the closing date for the WOAN ITA is 30 March 2021.

“In the finalisation of the ITAs, the Authority has duly considered the contents of the Policy Directives as required by section 3(4) of the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) and subsequently published an Information Memorandum (IM) for IMT spectrum Assignment on 1 November 2019,” said Modimoeng.

He said ICASA also considered and analysed all representations received in response to the IM, including:

  • The development of various empowerment obligations to be imposed on the successful bidders in the auction process including a requirement to support Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).
  • The requirement for successful bidders to support the WOAN through procurement of a minimum 30% national capacity.
  • The imposition of empowerment obligations on the WOAN in order to ensure that it is a credible empowerment tool that will assist the Authority to achieve the sector’s transformation agenda.

Modimoeng said that the licensing of spectrum is key because of the economic benefits it will have on the country.

He also noted that the licensing is important to ensuring continued provision of good quality broadband services and lowering of the cost to communicate in South Africa.

Spectrum to be auctioned

Modimoeng announced that ICASA will make 406 MHz of spectrum available for the provision of mobile broadband services in South Africa.

The spectrum that will be available for mobile networks to bid for is as follows:

Spectrum lots for auction
Lot numbers Lot category Lot size Number of lots available Reserve price per lot
1-4 700MHz 2 x 5MHz 4 R526,615,392.49
5-8 800MHz 2 x 5MHz 4 R752,307,703.55
9 800MHz 2 x 10MHz 1 R1,155,174,976.66
10-24 2600MHz 1 x 10MHz 14 R97,843,320.52
25 3500MHz 1 x 2MHz 1 R9,818,987.30
26-33 3500MHz 1 x 10MHz 8 R75,606,202.22
34 3500MHz 1 x 4MHz 1 R19,637,974.60

ICASA said that after consulting regarding the inclusion of the IMT2300 band, it decided to put the auction of this spectrum on hold.

“The Authority has noted that it is still required by the Radio Frequency Assignment Plan, 2015 to conduct a feasibility study to establish the destination band for the Fixed Services in the band,” said Modimoeng.

“It is for this reason that the Authority has decided to exclude the IMT2300 from the current licensing process.”

Additionally, ICASA has set aside the following spectrum for the WOAN:

  • IMT700: 1 x 20 MHz
  • IMT2600: 1 x 30 MHz
  • IMT3500: 1 x 30 MHz

Modimoeng noted that there are wholesale and retail competition issues in South Africa, and said that the licensing process will not solve these concerns.

“The Authority is keenly aware of the need to prevent the spectrum award from worsening the competition concerns in mobile markets identified by the Authority through other processes,” said Modimoeng.

“This will be done by imposing appropriate obligations and spectrum caps.”

“The Authority is imposing spectrum floors for the new players to ensure that they become credible players in the market, the spectrum cap of 2×21 MHz (including existing sub 1-GHz spectrum holdings) has been imposed on the sub 1-GHz spectrum bands and the overall spectrum cap of 184 MHz (including existing assigned spectrum holdings) has been imposed,” said Modimoeng.

Modimoeng also announced that ICASA has imposed a 30% national capacity uptake obligation for the successful licensees.

“The successful licensees shall procure a minimum of 30% national capacity from the WOAN collectively as soon as the WOAN is operational for a period of seven (7) years,” said Modimoeng.

“The 30% national capacity to be procured from the WOAN will be shared proportionally amongst the successful licensees based on the amount of spectrum acquired from the Auction by each successful licensee.”

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ICASA reveals prices and dates for 4G and 5G spectrum auction