March 6, 2018 / 12:16 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa eyes March 2019 for radio spectrum allocation

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CAPE TOWN, March 6 (Reuters) - South Africa plans to allocate delayed radio frequency spectrum by March next year, the telecommunications ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

Allocation of the spectrum is seen as key to expanding broadband services in Africa’s most industrialised economy, where the high cost of telecommunications is a barrier to doing business.

“The intention is allocate the spectrum before the end of the next financial year in March 2019, but hopefully sooner,” said spokesman Siya Qoza.

The initial auction by telecoms regulator ICASA was stopped after Minister Siyabonga Cwele challenged the licensing process by arguing that ICASA should have waited until the department had finalised its integrated ICT policy before inviting operators to bid for spectrum.

Qoza said a new bill paving the way for the creation of a Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) as a network wholesaler would be submitted to parliament this year.

Last year, Cwele said six South African telecoms companies, including MTN Group and Vodacom, could keep their broadband radio spectrum licences until they expire in 2028 after agreeing to buy at least 30 percent of the government’s new WOAN.

Creating a single open-access network is at the heart of a government goal to roll out broadband access to 80 percent of the population by 2019, by encouraging operators to compete on services rather than the quality of the network. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng/Mark Heinrich)

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