Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
2 minute read
19 Mar 2022
2:02 pm

Spectrum auction: Faster internet could soon be a reality in South Africa

Kaunda Selisho

The internet is expected to get faster in after THE auction of high-demand IMT radio frequency spectrum - but will it get cheaper?

Picture: iStock

Internet users in South Africa could soon enjoy a faster browsing and streaming experience thanks, to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) successfully completing an auction of high-demand IMT radio frequency spectrum.

The conclusion of the sale was confirmed in a statement issued by the South African Communications Forum (SACF), who welcomed the successful conclusion of the auction.

“This is indeed a historic moment that sees the licencing of high-demand spectrum for the first time in more than 15 years. The auction will have produced valuable lessons for future auctions,” said the SACF.  

The organisation further confirmed the spectrum auction raised close to R14.5 billion for the fiscus.

The figure exceeded the initially projected R8 billion for the whole auction, and reached this milestone in the first two days. 

“We congratulate Icasa on the conclusion of a successful auction, and all the participants who have been triumphant in the auction,” added the SACF.

The forum also believes that access to this spectrum is critical, and that it will support the “phenomenal and sustained surge in traffic since the beginning of Covid and the subsequent growth of digitization of businesses.”

What does the spectrum auction mean for data costs?

Despite the eye-watering amounts paid by bidders in the spectrum auction, the SACF assured that members who have been successful have been reminded to maintain their commitment to reducing data costs.

“South Africans can now look forward to faster speeds, better network quality, and broader rural coverage – all of which still require network upgrades and the importing of equipment already impacted by global supply chain demands.”

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Additionally, the SACF called for part of the monies raised to be redirected to the ICT sector to stimulate economic growth and to ensure inclusive access by all communities; “over the bailout non-performing parastatals.”

Which networks bid on additional spectrum?

According to the SACF, Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom and Vodacom are among the six qualified bidders who participated in the auction. 

As per the results, as announced by Icasa during the week, this is what each bidder offered. 

Bidders have a 30-day window in which to make payments for the bids, thereafter, licences will be issued. 

SACF concluded by indicating it is “conscious that two parallel legal processes have the potential to negate these gains,” without indicating exactly what legal processes it was referring to.

“As a result of the significant impact and consequence of these processes on the country and economic growth, we are hopeful that the parties will be able to find a resolution soon.”

NOW READ: Data prices likely to remain high, says EFF after spectrum auction ends