The country’s communications watchdog, ICASA, today revealed a timetable and roadmap to expedite the licensing of the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum, also known as the high-demand spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN).
This roadmap follows the consent order granted by the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday, 15 September 2021, which ended the litigation instituted against ICASA by Telkom and e.tv.
The Court granted an Order to review and set aside ICASA’s decision to publish the Invitations to Apply (ITA) for both the high demand spectrum and WOAN.
The Court further directed that the matter be referred to ICASA for reconsideration.
ICASA has outlined the truncated timetable and milestones for the process as set out below:
“In framing the truncated timetable and roadmap, the Authority was mindful of the need for the expedited licensing process to be completed with exigency whilst adhering to a comprehensive and transparent consultative process,” says ICASA Chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
According to the Chairperson, ICASA is embarking on a process to consult stakeholders on key aspects pertaining to the expedited licensing process for high demand spectrum and the WOAN including, amongst others, implications of the release of high demand spectrum (and licensing of the WOAN) on competition in the market, the radio frequency bands to be licensed, in view of the yet to be completed digital migration process, and the nature and extent of obligations to be imposed, etc.
“Pursuant to the consultation process, ICASA may amend and/or re-issue the ITAs with a view to conducting an auction by the end of the current financial year.”
Dr Modimoeng expressed his gratitude to the parties to the litigation for not opposing the Authority’s consent order, thus enabling the Authority to embark on this revised process with a view to finally get the spectrum licensed on a long-term basis and in line with best regulatory practice.
“We are indeed grateful to everyone who participated in bringing the matter to finality. All things being equal, we envisage to licence the IMT spectrum no later than end of March 2022,” says Modimoeng.
The Chairperson further says that ICASA remains resolute in ensuring that it discharges its constitutional mandate in a fair, open and transparent manner, and for the benefit of all South Africans.
“We would like to urge all interested stakeholders to participate fully in this consultative engagement and to engage openly and robustly to ensure that no further impediments are placed in the way of the finalisation of this critical economic intervention,” states the Chairperson.
In conclusion, Dr Modimoeng makes an appeal to stakeholders to accept the published timetable / schedule for both licensing processes, to avoid unduly delaying the release of this much needed economic stimulus input.