Spectrum for LTE services in South Africa is unlikely to be allocated until 2012, pushing back the launch of next-generation mobile technology in the country. That’s according to the Honourable Obed Bapela (pictured), deputy minister of communications for South Africa, who was interviewed by Mobile World Live last month. Bapela said the country is still undecided on the best method of allocating such spectrum and, although he hopes that decisions can still be taken this year, he admits recent moves have meant the country is “going back to the drawing board” on such a strategy.

3G HSPA services in South Africa are already proving popular, with all four of the country’s operators having launched the technology. According to Wireless Intelligence, 18 percent of total mobile connections are now 3G-based, and there would appear to be a healthy appetite for faster LTE services. The issue of LTE in South Africa is a contentious one, with reports earlier this year suggesting that the country’s regulator has reintroduced a clause insisting that bidders for some frequencies must be 30 percent-owned by the country’s so-called historically disadvantaged individuals. This could lead to new, smaller players snapping up the valuable airwaves at the expense of MTN and Vodacom. The auction of 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum for LTE was initially due this year but now looks set to be delayed. Cell C and MTN are among the country’s operators currently trialling LTE in the hope of being able to commercially launch the technology once spectrum is allocated. View the full interview with Obed Bapela here.