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ICASA Spectrum auction explained: What it means for your data

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South Africa's network providers are facing off ahead of the auction of new for high-demand spectrum. In the run-up to the auction, the saga has been ongoing Telkom filing a  lawsuit over the sale

If you're lost after all the updates and don't understand what exactly this sale means for you, don't worry we'll explain. 

What is being auctioned 

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is going to auction off licencing spectrum for broadband networks to service providers by March 31. 

The auction will include 406MHz of IMT spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,600MHz, and 3,500MHz bands. These licences will last for 20 years and the reserve prices for these bands ranges from R10 million to R1 billion. 

This increase in the spectrum will allow for less congestion on the band and make broadband quicker for the network which owns it. 

The networks are also expected to be able to make data more affordable by reducing the cost of each GB as a result of the increase in availability. 

Over the period lockdown, ICASA released temporary spectrum which resulted in network providers like MTN and Vodacom to launch their 5G networks and zero-rate much-needed websites. It also helped support the increase in users as people were at home. 

What's the problem

So far six applicants have responded to the invitation to apply for the spectrum, including MTN, Telkom and Vodacom. 

However, Telkom has launched a court challenge to the auction. The service provider thinks the auction is unlawful. 

This challenge is on the grounds that the 700MHz and 800MHz regions are not commercially viable as they are still in use by broadcasters and that the Invitation to Apply went ahead without finishing the Mobile Broadband Service Market Inquiry. Ths inquiry was meant to investigate the cause of the dominance of Vodacom and MTN. 

ICASA is planning to oppose the court application by Telkom. 


27 Jan 2021



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