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SA demands unlicenced Wireless Spectrum

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The Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) has called upon the new minister of communication to address ‚white space’ spectrum allocation as a means to provide greater social development throughout South Africa.

WAPA has issued an appeal to the new minister Radhaskrishna ‚Roy’ Padayachie to urgently address the spectrum efficiency, spectrum recovery and smarter spectrum policies through the provision of new spectrum to wireless access providers in South Africa.

Henk Kleynhans, chairman of WAPA, says, ‚South Africa needs to play catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to licensing wireless spectrum, but it isn’t too late.‚

The first issue to be addressed is freeing up white space, which sits in the regulated sections of wireless access provisioning as it can significantly improve service delivery, foster innovation and provide better quality wireless access to all South Africans.

According to Kleynhans white space is the unused spectrum that sits between TV channels. ‚It is considered prime spectrum for offering wireless broadband services because it can travel long distances and penetrate through walls: it is like Super Wi-Fi,‚ he says.

In the United States recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved new rules for the use of unlicensed white space spectrum laying the foundations for the first significant innovation since the last release of unlicensed spectrum. This newly released unlicensed spectrum will be a powerful platform for innovation. One analyst estimates white spaces applications could generate United States more than $7 billion in economic value annually.

‚A quarter-decade ago, the FCC released unlicenced spectrum which fostered innovation above and beyond expectations,‚ he explains. Resulting technologies included not only baby monitors and cordless phones but critically, Wi-Fi,‚ says Kleynhans. Today Wi-Fi is an industry standard wireless technology and a crucial part of the wireless eco-system.

Kleyhans says, ‚the US has shown us a clear path on how well this process can be handled and, if done correctly, how quickly South Africa can provide high-level and effective wireless internet access to all South Africans.‚

The positive effects of addressing spectrum issues include economic development, job creation and innovation. By providing unlicensed white space, cities will be able to further explore smart cities strategies, more efficient public service systems and broadband provision for all South Africans amongst others.

WAPA’s objective as an association is to act as a collective voice for open-standard wireless access providers in South Africa and act as an interface between the government regulator ICASA, network operators, service providers and consumers.

‚With the new appointment of Minsiter Padayachie there is a real chance that the wireless irregularities of the past will be addressed and deliver a great future for all South Africans,‚ concludes Kleynhans.

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