SA minister wants spectrum to shake-up status quo - Mobile World Live

SA minister wants spectrum to shake-up status quo

06 SEP 2016

South Africa’s telecoms minister, Siyabonga Cwele, defended the government’s tough stance with regulator ICASA over a proposed 4G spectrum auction, as he outlined a longer-term vision to open up the market to smaller players.

His comments come as the ministry prepares for a court showdown with the regulator over the planned auction, which proposed the sale of 4G spectrum worth more than $1 billion.

The government launched legal action last month, accusing the regulator of acting hastily in sending invitations to the country’s top operators to take part. It wants courts to block the process until it has released its long-awaited spectrum policy.

Speaking to South Africa’s TechCentral, the minister said the upcoming ICT policy white paper, which will deal with spectrum allocation, would include its vision to create a single national wholesale open access network, intended to encourage competition and drive down broadband prices.

As well as encouraging investors to spend on the new access network, it will also allow smaller players to gain access to spectrum, and reduce the dominance of operators MTN and Vodacom.

In contrast, ICASA’s planned auction would sell the spectrum available to the highest bidders.

In the interview, Cwele expressed disappointment that the government was having to go to court to resolve the issue, but defended its upcoming policy, which has reportedly been in the works for five years.

“It is our view that we should work closely with the regulator and it is our belief that the regulator should stay in tune with the policy,” he said. “Unfortunately, the policy has taken a long time to develop, but it was right to take a long time, to consult with the industry. Now at least we have a document that is before cabinet.”

The minister revealed the government had even shared a draft of the policy with ICASA, and said the two parties had agreed to wait for the policy process before launching spectrum action.

While Cwele is also keen encourage competition with smaller players, he said “there is no intention for us to destroy to any company”.

“I have had meetings with Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, on a private basis, to understand what their fears are and to clarify the position of the government,” he said.

“I understand very well that if I am in an advantageous position and am able to maximise my profits, I wouldn’t want to try another system that will bring in other players.”

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Kavit Majithia

Kavit joined Mobile World Live in May 2015 as Content Editor. He started his journalism career at the Press Association before joining Euromoney’s graduate scheme in April 2010. Read More >>

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