High-demand spectrum is going to be a boon for innovators in the digital economy, said MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa, speaking at last night’s first virtual MTN Business App of the Year Awards 2020.
Motsa’s comments come as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has kicked-off the country’s first spectrum auction in over a decade.
Earlier this month, ICASA published the invitation to apply (ITA) for the licensing of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum, also known as high-demand spectrum, and that of the wholesale open access network (WOAN).
The ITA for high-demand spectrum is for licences in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands, and ICASA has indicated the closing date for IMT applications is 28 December 2020, while that of the WOAN is 30 March 2021.
Motsa lauded government, the telecoms regulator and communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams for moving the spectrum process forward, saying: “At long last, they have set a deadline to say by Q12021, we are going to get the high-demand spectrum.
“In the 21st century, there is no economy that can grow without digital infrastructure,” he said, adding that no economy can grow and compete without the app developers being honoured at last night’s awards ceremony. “You are the ones that will turn this economy from the current recession back to growth.”
Key among the country’s economic recovery plan is the auction of high-demand spectrum.
From president Cyril Ramphosa, finance minister Tito Mboweni to Ndabeni-Abrahams, all have made pronouncements about the importance of licensing spectrum.
The South African government is looking to license spectrum through an auction as a way to add funds to the fiscus, to benefit the country’s economy.
Presenting SA’s economic recovery plan in Parliament recently, Ramphosa said: “The release of high-frequency spectrum by March 2021 and the completion of digital migration will reduce data costs for firms and households. This process is being managed by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and will promote transformation, reduce costs and increase access.”
Spectrum allocation is also critical to SA in regards to the reduction of data prices which resulted in the #DataMustFall campaigns.
Since 2016, South Africans have been complaining about the high price of data through the #DataMustFall social media banner, and both the Competition Commission and ICASA initiated inquiries into data pricing.
Equally, mobile network operators Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C have been readying themselves to take advantage of the spectrum to strengthen and develop new services, such as 5G.
The CEO implored the innovators to continue to innovate, assuring them MTN is always looking to forge lasting partnerships.
“As you do this innovation, we’d be willing to partner with you,” he said.
“One of the things that COVID-19 has done is to accelerate digitalisation, but also taught us that the future classroom is at home and not necessarily in a physical building at school. It also taught us that the future office is not in the business park, it’s possibly at home. It’s also taught us that the future movie theatre is now happening at home.
“In all this, the role of MTN and the role of innovators is more pronounced than ever. Please continue to innovate.”
Motsa also expressed MTN’s commitment to the South African mobile community. “At the core of this organisation, we have a core belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. A modern connected life starts with connectivity.
“That is why we have invested tens of billions of rands in the last five years and even before, to make sure that 96% of South Africans have access to world-class connectivity,” he stated.