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ICASA Seeks Applications on Digital Community Television Licences

March 16, 2020

Independent Communications Authority

The Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) invites applications for Digital Community Television Broadcasting Service and Radio Frequency Spectrum Licences on Multiplex 1 (MUX 1) Frequencies.

The invitation to apply to pre-register was published in Government Gazette 43088.

The notice points out that non-compliance with the applicable provisions of the Electronic Communications Act, the invitation to apply and/or any applicable regulations will result in an application not being considered.

The invitation focuses on, inter alia, application guidelines in respect of the service licence and radio frequency spectrum licence applications, evaluation criteria, request for confidentiality, amendments to the application, request of submission of supplementary information, disqualification criteria, proposed licence terms and conditions for radio frequency spectrum licence and application procedure for radio frequency spectrum licence for MUX frequencies.

Included in the proposed licence terms for radio frequency spectrum are transitional arrangements for the right of use of radio frequency spectrum in Schedule J until analogue switch off following which the plan as set out in Annexure J of the latest version of the Terrestrial Broadcasting Frequency Plan will be applicable in relation to MUX 1.

Applications are invited until 4 November 2020.

Meanwhile, the telecommunications and postal services department has briefed the national council of provinces on Spectrum Policy.

The department pointed out that South Africa has more than four hundred Electronic Communications Network Service licensees that cannot access spectrum due to its scarcity.

It added that the current infrastructure market, particularly in relation to broadband, is characterised by fundamental market problems of ineffective competition; infrastructure sharing bottlenecks with unnecessary duplication of infrastructure and inefficient use of spectrum.

The National Integrated ICT White Paper, approved by cabinet in 2016, introduced a new Spectrum Policy designed to treat spectrum needs as a public good used to meet public interest objectives, reduce duplication of infrastructure and enhance efficiency, reduce the costs of infrastructure and introduce highly contested spectrum in bands where demand exceeds the supply.

The White Paper also called for the introduction of a Wholesale Open Access Network (WOAN) to serve as a wholesale provider and enable the entry of new, innovative and black-owned service providers.

The Policy on High Demand Spectrum was released in July 2019 designed to introduce a shared approach to spectrum use, encourage licensees to collaborate through deployment of a WOAN and assign some high demand spectrum to a WOAN and the remaining high demand spectrum to be assigned to other electronic communications network service licensees.

The department also briefed the select committee on public enterprises and communication on the policy direction on the licensing of a wireless open access network.

In November 2019, ICASA published an Information Memorandum (IM) for comment that outlines its intentions with regard to the licensing process for high demand spectrum and includes the process and criteria to be applied.

According to the department, the IM makes provision for two licensing processes, namely, spectrum to be licensed to industry through an auction process and a licensing process for a WOAN.

It added that ICASA has received over 40 submissions on the IM.