JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s telecommunications regulator ICASA will expand the use of temporary High frequency spectrum issued to licensees for another three months on Thursday, it said in view of the delays in the auction of the new permanent spectrum.
The expansion means cellular operators will continue to offer their customers faster connectivity to meet growing data needs as large numbers of people continue to work from home.
The extension will run from June 1 to August 31, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said in a statement when they made changes to the ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations.
Licensees should return the temporary spectrum to the regulator no later than March 31, at which time the ICASA was supposed to auction permanent frequencies, but a Supreme Court halted the proposed auction in March because the process was deemed illegal and irrational.
“The extension by three months gives everyone involved the opportunity to find a solution to the deadlocked frequency dispute,” said ICASA Chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng.
“Unfortunately, at some point we will no longer be able to continuously expand these temporary frequency allocations if legal disputes lead to a more permanent licensing route.”
Modimoeng urged active litigants to participate in the ongoing settlement negotiations to resolve the stalemate as the regulator cannot maintain a pandemic-specific temporary agreement to the point where it amounts to a “back door” frequency licensing regime.
According to ICASA, licensees with temporary spectrum will offer free connectivity access to virtual classroom platforms for a period of 17 months from the date of deployment.
Approved equipment used for temporary frequencies must be taken out of service within three months of the expiry of the temporary licenses, while the duration of any frequency release agreements cannot exceed the duration of those licenses, he added.