South Africa's years-long limbo over spectrum licensing and allocation could possibly be fully resolved by this time next year.
Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) director-general Robert Nkuna on Monday promised action on the much-debated subject, as industry becomes evermore desperate for the high-demand spectrum required to elevate the nation's information and communication technology (ICT) industry to the next level.
Speaking at the yearly Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference, in Hermanus, in the Western Cape, this week, Nkuna said the DTPS has been mandated by the Presidency to gain traction on the much-debated topic before the upcoming investment conference in October.
This follows on Cabinet's approval in August of the study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to determine the spectrum requirements for the proposed Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) envisaged in the Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, which was approved by Cabinet in September 2016.
The CSIR study has confirmed that a portion of the radio frequency spectrum can be allocated to the WOAN, with excess capacity going to the industry.
This comes after years of delays in the development and publishing of a spectrum policy that would release the coveted and essential spectrum, and the subsequent proposal of the WOAN, which had received mixed reactions from industry.
The DTPS is engaging the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) over the finalisation of a policy direction, which will enable the regulator to implement the ICT policy.
Cabinet also approved the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill for tabling in Parliament within the next week or two, which provides for the introduction and licensing of the WOAN.
In the run-up to the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) next year, the department aims to have Icasa license the majority of the high-demand spectrum.
While the State-owned WOAN will likely be allocated a large portion of the spectrum prior to the WRC, the spectrum required for fifth-generation (5G) technology will be allocated post the resolution of the standards required.
"As we prepare for the WRC, we see South Africa among the first countries to deploy 5G," he said, asking operators to lead the way, as government does not have sufficient resources to pursue the development of a 5G industry in a silo.