South Africa: Telkom CEO Opposes ICASA’s 5G Licensing Proposal -Reports

Telkom SA’s CEO Sipho Maseko has declared that South Africa’s communications regulator ICASA is making a terrible mistake in the way it intends to license access to the much sought-after 5G-suitable 3.5GHz radio frequency spectrum band.

ICASA took the industry by surprise earlier this month when it released an Information Memorandum that not only included the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands that the government had asked it to license but also included the 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands. The latter band will be one of the crucial ones used globally for deploying the next-generation 5G infrastructure.

But Maseko told TechCentral on Tuesday that the manner in which ICASA is approaching the licensing of the band is problematic.

He said the issue is that for any meaningful 5G investment, every operator will need roughly 100MHz of spectrum. He added that in the 3.5GHz band, ICASA only has 116MHz available to license, meaning that either only one telecoms operator would get access or operators would only get tiny slivers of the band, which wouldn’t deliver the authentic 5G experience and would result in network operators having to densify their infrastructure at a high cost.

Telkom already has access to spectrum in the 3.5GHz band, but it is nowhere near enough for 5G applications, according to Maseko.

He suggested that instead of putting slivers of the band up for auction, South Africa should first thoroughly consider its strategy around 5G.

One option, Maseko suggested is that ICASA licenses all available spectrum at 3.5GHz to the government’s planned wholesale open-access network (Woan), which could, in turn, provide 5G access to operators on a wholesale basis.

Maseko said that if this doesn’t happen, there would be a risk that the industry would become embroiled in debates and fights for many more years and the 5G wave would pass South Africa by.

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