According to a statement from the Council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to licensees – Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, RAIN Networks, Liquid Telecoms – will now have to be returned to the authority by no later than November 30, 2021.
The temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited Invitation to Apply (ITA) during April 2020 that aimed to ensure connectivity for all during the National State of Disaster period caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, the authority has extended the duration of the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment twice, with the last expiry set on August 31, 2021. Executive chairperson of ICASA, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, said, ‘‘The Authority’s interventions with regards to the release of the temporary radio frequency spectrum have indeed contributed immensely to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured that South Africans were, and continue to be, able to communicate during these unprecedented times. However, the Authority cannot allow the temporary spectrum assignment to assume a state of permanence.”
The authority has taken into account the current environment in relation to the number of infections, the gradual reopening of the economy, and the steady progress in the vaccination program. More importantly, the authority is mindful of the need to focus its efforts on the permanent licensing of the spectrum.
The Chairperson further explained that giving an additional three months extension is a “sufficient winding down period” after allowing operators to use the temporarily assigned spectrum for a period of 17 months. This is part of the amended COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations implemented by ICASA, giving industry players adequate time to plan and adjust their operations.