Vodacom calls for speedy allocation of LTE spectrum

2013-11-14 13:16
Smartphones. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Smartphones. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The allocation of spectrum is vital for South Africa to roll out higher speed LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile networks, a mobile operator has insisted.

Vodacom said that the regulator had to allocate spectrum for the company to accelerate LTE.

"It's important for us to get it [spectrum]; I think the quicker we can get it, the faster we can help government achieve the broadband objectives," Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told News24.

Operators in SA have been recycling spectrum in order to expand limited LTE service mainly in urban areas, and Vodacom is expected to have 1 000 LTE base stations by early 2014.

However, in anticipation of the implementation of the policy on spectrum allocation, the company said it has been equipping the network with the hardware necessary for LTE.

Delays

"Basically what we've done is that by March-April the entire network will be swopped to the latest equipment which is what we call LTE-ready equipment," Joosub said.

The government has indicated that it will move swiftly on spectrum allocation after years of delays.

"Obviously, we have to move with speed too on spectrum policy. We aim to finalise the Spectrum Policy by March 2014. This includes the issue of high-demand spectrum for broadband, which is linked to digital migration," said Minister of Communications Yunus Carrim at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference.

The minister said that a recently held inter-departmental workshop on the ICT Policy Review examined the relationship between broadband and economic and social delivery services.

"One of the key issues that emerged from the workshop is the relationship between effective delivery of services such as education and health, for example, and the provision of broadband," said Carrim.

Vodacom is encouraged by the discussions around the provisioning of spectrum, but the operator has concerns around specific frequencies.

"There've been a lot of good discussions going on at the moment and we're encouraged with the actions of the new minister so hopefully the 2.6[GHz] spectrum can be allocated relatively quickly; I think we still have issues with the 800[MHz] spectrum," said Joosub.

Roadblocks

One of the roadblocks to the allocation of spectrum for LTE is the fact that analogue television broadcasters occupy parts of the spectrum.

SA was meant to move to digital terrestrial television prior to the Soccer World Cup in 2010, but the process has been hampered by delays.

Joosub argued that it was becoming more urgent for SA to make the switch as continued delays could potentially threaten the economic viability of the mobile networks.

"I think we need to push harder to resolve the impasse on the 800 spectrum - the impasse for the broadcasters... really making sure that we can get that issue sorted and we can start the digital migration."

He added that Vodacom has been planning for spectrum allocation and needs direction from the regulator as to by what date it would be available.

"I think it's going to take us a few years just to move the broadcasters off the 800 spectrum which will then make it available. However, if we know what the end date is, we can backward plan to make sure that we, by that date when spectrum becomes available, the network is ready and we can almost overnight, switch it on."


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Read more on:    vodacom  |  broadband

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