The department of communications & digital technologies was meant to publish the policy direction on the assignment of broadband spectrum in South Africa last Friday, but failed to do so.
Nthabeleng Mokitimi-Dlamini, the spokeswoman for communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, told TechCentral on Friday that the policy direction on so-called unassigned high-demand spectrum has been finalised.
However, the document is “going through the requisite processes prior to publication”, she said, without elaborating. “Further communication in this regard will be made in due course.”
On 20 June, in his state of the nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised the policy direction would be published within 30 days.Publication of the policy direction, which communications regulator Icasa will use to assign spectrum suitable for 4G/LTE networks — and possibly for next-generation 5G infrastructure — has been delayed several times this year.
Ndabeni-Abrahams had been expected to issue the policy direction to Icasa by the end of April, but at the last minute unexpectedly deferred it to after the 8 May general election.
The president said last month that the policy direction would “include measures to promote competition, transformation, inclusive growth of the sector and universal access”.
“This is a vital part of bringing down the cost of data. We call on the telecommunications industry to bring down the cost of data so that it is in line with the pricing that prevails in other markets in the world.”
Mokitimi-Dlamini declined to say when the policy direction might be published.
South Africa’s mobile operators are desperate for access to new spectrum to continue rolling out their 4G/LTE networks (built using their 2G and 3G spectrum assignments) and to begin deployment of 5G technology.
South Africa’s operators have not received any new spectrum in the past 14 years, crimping their ability to roll out mobile broadband infrastructure and driving up their costs as they are forced to “densify” their networks in urban areas to cope with demand. MTN and Vodacom have said they will be able to cut mobile data prices meaningfully only after they get access to additional spectrum resources.