Six South African companies will be allowed to keep their broadband spectrum until licences expire in 2028, on the premise they acquire at least 30 per cent of the government’s proposed shared network.

The country’s government is seeking to create a single open access network to boost broadband coverage across the country, providing access to 80 per cent of the population by 2019.

Its proposal would see spectrum pooled and given to a new national wholesale access network operator, jointly owned by the government and the industry.

The country’s minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, announced an agreement had been reached between the government and operators including MTN and Vodacom on 19 May, Reuters reported.

Today, only 40 per cent of the South African population have access to broadband.

Initially, major operators including MTN, Vodacom and Telkom opposed the proposal, given the amount of investment they had made into their own networks so far.

For example Telkom, which is majority owned by the state, opposed giving up spectrum which was already allocated. However, it did agree to some elements of the shared network proposal.

On the back of the agreement, Telkom reportedly said the shared network must be given the chance to succeed.