Press release: ISPA welcomes proposed radio regulations, hopes for speedy spectrum licensing process

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The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has welcomed the publication of new draft radio frequency spectrum regulations by ICASA that propose to introduce, amongst other things, radio spectrum trading and the sub-leasing of spectrum on a non-profit basis in South Africa.

However, ISPA has appealed to ICASA not to allow these draft regulations to delay the initiation of a fresh spectrum assignment process following its cancellation of an intended auction of spectrum allocations in the 2.6GHz and 3.5 GHz bands earlier this year.

ISPA says that spectrum assignment in the above bands are one of the most urgent issues that the regulator needs to address in order to promote competition in the telecom market and improve broadband access across the country.

Said Ant Brooks, General Manager at ISPA: “ISPA welcomes ICASA’s draft radio regulations, which are intended to revise and consolidate those in place under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. We are especially pleased to note the proposal to introduce spectrum trading and the sub-leasing of spectrum on a non-profit basis in South Africa.

Allowing licence holders to trade in spectrum licences and the sub-lease licensed frequency has the potential to have a massive impact on the availability of spectrum for the provision of broadband and other services.”

But ISPA hopes that the draft regulations will not result in further delays to the 2.6 and 3.5GHz assignment process which the regulator has publicly stated will be completed in the first quarter of 2011, he adds.

“We are deeply disappointed with the lengthy and flawed process that ICASA has followed to date for spectrum assignment in these critical bands. It is dispiriting for the industry when a critical regulatory process takes four years to come to fruition, only for the regulator to admit that its process was flawed in the first place,” Said Brooks.

Many of ISPA’s members have publicly outlined plans to build wireless infrastructure that will bring more competition to the market, give consumers more choice and lower the costs of communications.

However, they cannot do so until they can access frequency assignments from ICASA. This is a massive setback for these companies as well as consumers.

“Industry is willing to serve as an external institutional memory for ICASA as it goes back to the drawing board to create a new spectrum assignment process,” commented Brooks.

All the information ICASA needs to make the right decisions is already available in the numerous public submissions made to date, the recommendations of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the National Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy for South Africa.

All that is needed to get the process underway again is the appointment of a suitably qualified and experienced consultant to design a new licensing or auction process that will ensure spectrum is assigned in a fair and efficient manner. The spectrum assignment process should be ICASA’s immediate priority, given its importance to the growth of the country’s telecoms industry and to improving broadband penetration.”

Further Information

For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.