Cabinet commends spectrum licensing agreement

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Cabinet has welcomed the settlement agreement reached in the matter involving the invitation to apply (ITA) for the allocation of high-demand spectrum.

“This provides policy certainty in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector,” said Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane in a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday.

Late last month, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, had said the settlement agreement and the subsequent policy direction would contribute to improving investor confidence.

Cwele and the council of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) have agreed to settle the matter. In terms of the agreement, ICASA will withdraw the ITA, which was issued on 15 July 2016, and the Minister will also withdraw the legal challenge.

The battle between the Minister and ICASA stems from when ICASA issued the ITA for licences for spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, which were to be used to provide mobile broadband wireless access services in South Africa. However, Cwele challenged the licensing process, saying ICASA should have waited until his department had finalised its Integrated ICT Policy White Paper before inviting operators to bid for spectrum.

On Thursday, Mokonyane said the settlement agreement was in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to initiate the process for the allocation of high-demand radio spectrum licensing.

In further contributing to the implementation of the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, interested parties have until 8 November 2018 to provide written inputs on the proposed policy and policy direction.

Improving digital migration

Cabinet has approved a revised delivery model on the implementation of the Broadcast Digital Migration Project.

The model adopts a market/retail-driven approach through collaboration and partnerships with the private sector and industry.

With this approach, government will no longer be involved in the procurement of set-top boxes, warehousing, transportation and installation of devices. 

“This provides South Africa with headway towards the completion of the project in a manner that is inclusive, affordable and efficient, and that reduces risk to government. This will push digital viewership migration to the 85% threshold and beyond, towards switching off all analogue broadcasts.

“We have a project manager and we have set up a project management office,” said Mokonyane.

Mokonyane said a media briefing will be held soon to give an update on the work done regarding set-top boxes.  

“Just to clarify on what might have been a confusion, work that has been done around the procurement, installation and awareness comes to about R10 billion. This includes the gadgets that are in the different warehouses that we want to… [connect and put] to good use,” said the Minister.

The Free State, remaining parts of the Northern Cape and North West are just some of those places that are in line to receive the remainder of the procured set-top boxes.

“Those that are supposed to be cushioned by government are still going to benefit but not [only] through a set-top box… We are working with the retail and manufacturing sectors, MultiChoice and the SABC…” said Mokonyane. –