SA mobile broadband policy criticised

2013-11-18 10:20
Peter Lyons of the GSMA has urged politicians to stop meddling in the allocation of spectrum, critical to high speed wireless networks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Peter Lyons of the GSMA has urged politicians to stop meddling in the allocation of spectrum, critical to high speed wireless networks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The Draft National Broadband Policy has been criticised for its proposal to appoint an entity to manage the spectrum for the rollout of higher speed networks.

While the draft document urges the acceleration of allocation of spectrum, the proposal to have a single entity manage the valuable has been criticised.

According to the document, one of the actions envisaged is to "Create or identify vehicle or entity to operate open access wireless network."

"The draft broadband policy as published on October 25 by the department of communications does give us pause and does raise some questions given its insistence on a wholesale open access entity which is unnamed, unfunded, unclear," Peter Lyons, director of Public Policy Africa Middle East at the GSM Association told News24.

The draft policy which is intended to result in a policy direction on the allocation of spectrum by early 2014 further adds that an agency will assist the department of communications to build an open access broadband network for SA.


"Appointment of agency to assist the Department of Communication in the facilitation of the process to conceptualise and develop the open access NBN [National Broadband Network]," the document says as an indicator of the direction the department wants to take.

Lyons questions the wisdom of giving one agency wide-ranging powers to manage the spectrum considered to be ideal for the rollout of LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks.

These networks will serve to create a new range of mobile services that could include the consumption of rich media and data-heavy services that may have a positive impact on the South African mobile ecosystem.

"The last thing you want to create, even in such a consultative forum, is such a degree of uncertainty about who would be operating this wholesale open access network. Who would be funding it? What would be the structure?"

This programme has been hamstrung mainly by the delay in the SA moving toward digital terrestrial television and the new minister of communications has indicated that the process has been delayed too long.

"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 Yunus Carrim at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference.


The draft policy seeks to accelerate the development of wireless broadband and its language speaks to the urgency of broadband access.

"The DOC will also ensure that impediments to wireless broadband rollout are removed, by issuing the necessary policy directives to Icasa to ensure the rapid assignment of high demand spectrum required to extend the wireless component of the open access broadband network by mid-2014," the document says.

Lyons said that far more discussion will be required to ensure that the national policy removed the atmosphere of uncertainty for industry players.

"If the department of communications wants to take that draft broadband policy to Cabinet in the first few weeks of December, I think between now and December they really have to seek out the industry views on this otherwise it'll be something that creates more questions than answers."

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Read more on:    gsma  |  mobile  |  broadband
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