South Africa’s communications regulator made the final preparations for its postponed spectrum action, with the three stage process set to finally begin tomorrow (8 March).

In a statement, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) explained an opt-in phase open to the four smallest operators in the country would begin and end tomorrow. The main sale, open to all six qualified bidders, is scheduled to start on 10 March, with the final stage concerned with allocating specific frequencies.

The opt-in auction is open to Cell C, Liquid Telecom, Rain Networks and Telkom South Africa and comprises a single round of bidding where the quartet compete for lots which would take them to a so-called minimum spectrum portfolio (MSP) of two 10MHz blocks in the sub-1GHz band and 60MHz above 1GHz.

Operators’ existing holdings are included in reaching the MSP threshold with only two of the four able to win spectrum required to meet it in the opt-in auction.

For the main phase of the auction, the four smaller operators will be joined by MTN and Vodacom’s local units.

Across the whole process, operators will compete for allocation in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,600MHz and 3,500MHz bands.

The auction has been beset by a legal spat between Telkom and ICASA, with an injunction throwing the original timeline of March 2021 well off course.

ICASA chair Keabetswe Modimoeng said. “We continue to take the necessary care in this spectrum auction process to ensure that there are no irreversible anti-competitive effects for the industry and the market.”

“We therefore urge all bidders to work collaboratively with us for the benefit of all South Africans so that the assignment of the high demand spectrum can make a meaningful contribution to the country, with economic spin-offs, and benefits to the citizens and the overall business environment.”