Service providers welcome draft radio regulations

2010-10-25 12:30

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has welcomed the publication of new draft radio frequency spectrum regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).

“ISPA welcomes Icasa’s draft radio regulations, which are intended to revise and consolidate those in place under the Telecommunications Act of 1996,” ISPA general manager Ant Brooks said today.

“We are especially pleased to note the proposal to introduce spectrum trading and the subleasing of spectrum on a non-profit basis in South Africa,” he said.

Allowing licence holders to trade in spectrum licences and the sublease licensed frequency had the potential to have a massive impact on the availability of spectrum for providing broadband and other services.

But the ISPA hoped the draft regulations would not result in further delays to the 2.6 and 3.5GHz assignment process, which the regulator had publicly stated would be completed in the first quarter of 2011.

“We are deeply disappointed with the lengthy and flawed process that Icasa has followed to date for spectrum assignment in these critical bands,” Brooks said.

It was dispiriting for the industry when a critical regulatory process took four years to come to fruition, only for the regulator to admit that its process was flawed in the first place.

Many of the ISPA’s members had publicly outlined plans to build wireless infrastructure that would bring more competition to the market, give consumers more choice and lower the costs of communications.

However, they could not do so until they could access frequency assignments from Icasa.

This was a massive setback for these companies as well as consumers.

“Industry is willing to serve as an external institutional memory for Icasa as it goes back to the drawing board to create a new spectrum assignment process,” Brooks said.

All the information Icasa needed to make the right decisions was already available in the numerous public submissions made to date, the recommendations of the International Telecommunications Union, and the National Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy for South Africa.

All that was needed to get the process under way again was appointing a suitably qualified and experienced consultant to design a new licensing or auction process that would ensure spectrum was assigned in a fair and efficient manner.

The spectrum assignment process should be Icasa’s immediate priority, given its importance to the growth of the country’s telecoms industry and to improving broadband penetration, Brooks said.

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