Competition watchdog hails spectrum policy as step towards lower data costs

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The Competition Commission has hailed gazetting of government's policy on high demand spectrum, saying the development was a critical step towards realising lower data costs for South African consumers.

Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams announced last week that the policy on high demand spectrum was gazetted and a directive had been given on the licensing of Wireless Open Access Network.

The statement comes after Cabinet announced that it had approved its Policy and Policy Direction for Licensing of High Demand Spectrum last month. The policy establishes a transformation framework to allow new businesses to enter the information technology market.

The Competition Commission said in a statement that spectrum licensing process will include measures to promote competition, transformation, inclusive growth of the sector and universal access.

"The Commission particularly welcomes the prioritisation which has been afforded the licensing of spectrum by the new administration given that the current lack of spectrum raises network costs and is one factor which contributes to high data prices," the statement said.

The statement added that high demand spectrum remained a scarce national resource and that its allocation should be concluded such that it benefits the citizens of the country first and foremost.

"The Commission will specifically engage around how a spectrum licensing process may ensure not only universal coverage but also access, which requires a level of universal affordability and not just technical availability.

"This may include obligations to ensure affordable data prices immediately, but also how relative allocations between operators may shape competition going forward into new generation networks such as 5G," it said.

According to the statement, the commission will continue to monitor the spectrum licensing process as the policy moves to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, which will determine the design and execution of spectrum licensing in line with the policy directive.

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