The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) refuted allegations that it is delaying the commencement of commercial TV White Space (TVWS).
The Black Information Technology Forum (BITF) announced on Wednesday that it has resolved to launch an urgent legal process to challenge ICASA’s decision to delay commencement of commercial TV White Space (TVWS) in court.
The BITF said it wanted to expose any individual at ICASA and their external handlers that are using public resources to sabotage progressive transformational government programs meant to save lives during the COVID- 19 disaster period and assist rural economy recovery beyond the COVID-19 period.
“There has not been any delays in this process,” ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka said.
He emphasized that ICASA’s Annual Performance Plan for the 2020/21 full-year envisions this process being completed by the end of this financial year ending 31 March 2021.
“ICASA has been proactive in making this technology available, even though the regulatory framework has not yet been finalized,” he explained.
A good example of this is ICASA allowing the use of the TVWS technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
ICASA authorised the implementation of TVWS technology in terms of the ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations published on 6 April 2020. This authorisation is temporary and would be revoked within three months of the termination of the National State of Disaster.
Maleka said ICASA regards TVWS as an important complementary technology for SA that has the potential to enable affordable broadband through dynamic spectrum access technologies.
He added that ICASA has previously stated and maintains that the regulatory framework designed for dynamic spectrum assignment and opportunistic spectrum management is in the best interests of South Africa’s digital future.
“The regulations are critical in facilitating universal access to broadband, particularly in rural and underserviced areas.”
On 5 June 2020, ICASA published framework to qualify to operate the Secondary Geo-Location Spectrum Database (S-GLSD) for the purposes of providing for a qualification framework for interested entities to operate as S-GLSD service providers. The reason the regulations are not yet in force is due to the fact that the authority has not qualified any S-GLSD providers.
Black IT Forum alleges that the commencement of commercial TVWS has once again been delayed for another 9 months because ICASA is saying that they want to go through a tendering process to get a service provider that will perform the certification of S-GLSD providers.
Maleka said: “In order to ensure that the qualification process is possible, the authority intends appointing a service provider for this purpose. Once the process of appointing a service provider is finalised, the authority will publish the commencement date through a notice in the Government Gazette. It is the Authority ‘s intention to publish the commencement date within this financial year.
“ICASA is committed to providing a sound and certain TVWS regulatory framework in an effort to expand broadband internet services in South Africa.”
He added: “It is therefore disingenuous to suggest that ICASA is delaying the roll-out of TVWS technologies without a clearer understanding of the regulatory environment.
“If anything, ICASA has actively pursued and promoted this technology. It is important to note that ICASA is required to operate within the confines of the applicable legislative framework and has embarked on a fair and transparent process for purposes of the speedy implementation of TVWS technologies.”