The Council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has resolved that the temporary radio frequency spectrum assigned to licensees will now have to be returned to the Authority by no later 30 November 2021.
The temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited ITA during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster, which in turn was occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Authority has since twice extended the duration of the temporary radio frequency spectrum assignment, the last expiry date being 31 August 2021.
The Authority has inter alia taken account of 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 spectrum. However, it is important that the industry be allowed adequate time to plan and adjust their operations.
According to the Chairperson of ICASA, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, ‘‘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 to ensuring 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 Chairperson further says that, having allowed operators to use the temporarily assigned spectrum for a period of seventeen (17) months, it is reasonable that they be allowed a further three months until 30 November 2021 as a sufficient winding down period.
In order to allow the licensees to wind down their operations on the temporary spectrum, and to notify consumers about the impact thereof (if any) on their service offerings, the Authority has resolved to amend the COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations to provide for continued use of the temporary radio frequency spectrum licences for the period ending 30 November 2021.