MTN, South Africa’s second biggest mobile phone provider that has failed to clinch a radio access network (RAN) sharing deal with Telkom, believes the information memorandum relating to the licensing of the radio frequency spectrum allocation issued by ICASA provides much-needed clarity. But the telco is still studying the contents of the memorandum. By Gugu Lourie
MTN said on Tuesday it welcomed the industry’s watchdog, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), publication of the information memorandum relating to the licensing of the radio frequency spectrum.
“The publication by ICASA provides much-needed clarity that is required. MTN is still reviewing the information memorandum in greater detail,” says Graham de Vries, Executive: Corporate Services, Corporate Services Department at MTN SA.
“In general, the lack of requisite spectrum has hampered the industry to roll out new generation networks and provide quality service to subscribers. To compensate for the lack of requisite spectrum, MTN had to re-farm spectrum in order to deploy new generation networks such as LTE. We cannot continue to do so as demand for data is increasing exponentially.”
Spectrum is a scarce resource and the ICT industry is likely to see a fierce bid for the allocation of the spectrum, which has been delayed for years.
Applicants will be vying to apply for the radio frequency spectrum licenses within the designated range: the 2.6GHz band and the 800 MHz band and the 700MHz band for the purposes of providing national broadband wireless access services.
The main aim of licensing 700MHz, 800MHz and 2600MHz is to ensure nationwide broadband access for all citizens by 2020.
Telkom and MTN South Africa signed a heads of agreement in 2014 to extend their existing roaming agreement to include bilateral roaming and outsourcing of the operation of Telkom’s radio access network.
But last month the Competition Commission informed Telkom and MTN South Africa that it has recommended the approval of the proposed transaction to share RAN between the two companies to the Competition Tribunal to be blocked.
The transaction between MTN and Telkom would have constituted the first RAN infrastructure sharing arrangement in South Africa between two mobile network operators and was aimed at meeting the demand in the unprecedented global shift from traditional voice to data.
The Government Gazette related to the allocation of spectrum published on Monday state that one of the objectives of ICASA is to stimulate competition in the provision of broadband services while ensuring innovative, affordable and universally accessible at acceptable quality levels.
An important provision contained in the broadband policy is the vision of the creation of a wholesale wireless broadband network. Although a detailed roadmap regarding its development has not been finalised, it is expected to address structural constraints in the market and enhance service- based competition.
“The wireless wholesale open access network is becoming even more relevant now given the recent wave of market consolidation in the ICT industry, which might reverse competition gains introduced in the market since the implementation of the ECA,” said the Gazette. “The wireless wholesale open access network operator would be expected to deploy wholesale RAN for mobile broadband. The Authority is of the view that the proposed 2x20MHz band would be sufficient to deploy wholesale RAN nationally.”