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6 telcos apply for 5G spectrum

The successful telcos will be set to go to auction for the spectrum in 2021.



South African communication regulator ICASA has received six applications for 5G spectrum, in response to its Invitation to Apply for the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum.

The ITA, issued on 2 October 2020, had a deadline for this past Monday, 28 December. One applicant, Women Building a Better Society (WBBS), got its application in after the 4pm deadline, and was immediately rejected.

The submissions that were successfully submitted before the deadline came from South Africa’s six major telecommunications providers: Cell C, Rain Network, Vodacom, Telkom, Liquid Telecoms and MTN.

In terms of the ITA, ICASA has made available the international mobile telecommunications (IMT) spectrum bands in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands, which will allow the operators to roll out both 4G and 5G services more efficiently and cost-effectively. However, it is regarded as the beginning of the full roll-out of 5G services.

ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said: “The Council of the Authority is indeed grateful to all applicants who responded to this call for the licensing of high demand spectrum. We are ready and committed in ensuring that we take the necessary care; and that the release of the spectrum and this process in general is indeed procedurally fair and non-discriminatory.

ICASA says it intends to conduct an auction for the licensing of high demand spectrum by no later than 31 March 2021. 

The ICASA statement also implied rejection of attempts by Telkom to halt the ITA process through court action.

“The Authority remains committed to defend this important process against any form of litigation, with a full appreciation of what the benefits of licensing high demand spectrum will be for consumers and the public at large,” said Dr Modimoeng. “We are unwavering in this regard.”