The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) seems to have made a final decision on the licensing of 4G and 5G radio frequency spectrum with the publication of a new invitation to apply (ITA) to the industry late last week.
This follows three months of consultation with the telecommunications industry after the legal issues resulting from the previous ITA, published in 2020.
While there is no absolute guarantee, it now looks like there could be a spectrum auction as soon as the end of the first quarter of 2022. Auction reserve prices have been set at a level likely to earn the government a minimum of R8-billion (around $499.9 million)
All this follows issues raised by stakeholders in their challenge to the previous licensing processes and consultation, notably from MTN and Telkom. Responding to these the authority says the planned auction design will include, among other provisions, spectrum floors and spectrum caps, an opt-in round, and spectrum-sharing provisions.
However, making available some spectrum is reliant on the completion of the digital migration process. Several bands, including those at 700MHz and 800MHz, are still being used for analogue and digital television broadcasts.
Applications for the ITA close at 4pm on 31 January 2022. Qualifying bidders will be announced on 21 February 2022. It now looks like the auction phase will start on 8 March 2022.