Broadband spectrum licensing delayed, again

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) announced today (5 March 2012) that they have postponed the licensing of high demand spectrum until further notice.

“This is to ensure that the Minister’s policy direction on high demand spectrum is taken into consideration,” said ICASA.

“We have received over 20 submissions and they will be made available from ICASA website and the library. The Authority would like to thank stakeholders for their submissions; and this will serve as valuable contribution to the process moving forward,” ICASA said in a press statement.

Background

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) released their draft spectrum assignment plan and draft invitation to apply at the end of 2011, but Telkom and MTN argued that it is premature and even that it should be withdrawn.

In response to ICASA’s draft spectrum assignment plan and draft invitation to apply, Telkom said that the regulator will be well advised to put the process on hold.

“Telkom is of the firm view that spectrum policy should be informed by Government’s national broadband policy and/or strategy and not the other way around – as currently seems to be the case,” Telkom said in their submission.

“Telkom regards the Authority’s proposed regulatory processes to be premature. We are strongly of the view that the Authority should delay the current processes until, as a minimum, the final spectrum policy directions have been published and thoroughly considered,” said Telkom.

Telkom added that ICASA should ideally delay the regulatory spectrum assignment process until South Africa’s National Broadband Plan (Master Plan) has been promulgated.

MTN also feels that the draft spectrum assignment plan and subsequent ITA as proposed by ICASA should first wait for the ministerial policy directive.

“Whilst it is normal practice to first conclude a ministerial policy directive process before embarking on an implementation process, the Authority has (inexplicably) through its actions made it a simultaneous or parallel process,” said MTN.

“Whist this matter has been addressed with the Authority, the Authority is continuing with its process in parallel to the Ministerial policy making process on the same subject matter.”

“As the draft policy directions for electronic communications services in high demand spectrum were issued prior to the draft regulations published by ICASA, it stands to reason that the Authority, knowing that a policy direction on the same subject matter is imminent, will not continue with a regulation making exercise because ICASA must consider the policy directions,” said MTN.

“As the process initiated by the Minster is still to be finalized, MTN requires clarification from the Authority on how it intends to consider the policy directions as issued by the Minister.”

MTN suggested that ICASA withdraws the draft regulations until the finalization of the policy direction is complete, or alternatively hold these draft regulations in abeyance until the policy directions are finalized.

ISPA and WAPA also concurred that the minister has to issue her spectrum policy directions first for ICASA’s regulatory process to proceed sensibly.

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Broadband spectrum licensing delayed, again