South Africans may now have ‘digital load shedding’ to worry about

Date:6 September 2021 Tags:, , , , ,

If regular load shedding wasn’t enough, South Africans may now have ‘digital load shedding’ to worry about. What changed data in our country and enabled lower data packages and the launch of 5G, is now potentially going to be taken back.

MTN has warned, as per BusinessTech, that ICASA (The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) made a decision to take back the temporary radio frequency spectrum. This is set to occur on November 30, which could lead to ‘digital load shedding.’

The announcement was made this week, which essentially entailed ICASA expressing that they’d resolved the temporary frequency spectrum assigned to licensees, and that these will have to be returned to “the authority” by no later than November 30.

Wait, what is the temporary radio frequency spectrum and why does it matter?

The spectrum was first assigned by “means of an expedited invitation” that could be applied for during the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster during the launch phase of the pandemic, as ITWeb confers.

Mobile operators were able to launch 5G in various cities and cater to the increase in data demands because people were working from home or remotely.

So, it’s been good for our country?

Essentially yes, and for the likes of MTN, Telkom and Etv. It largely allowed digitalisation in our country to be spearheaded. It was also so important for the mobile giants, that those mentioned above even took ICASA to court when the spectrum was set to be auctioned in March.

“Removing the temporary spectrum, when the pandemic remains a reality for all South Africans and before ICASA completes the spectrum auction, will have a significant impact on data supply to South Africans,” Jacqui O’Sullivan, the executive for corporate affairs expressed to Broadband. 

This is what is allowed, according to O’Sullivan: 

  • Sustainable measures for data increases since March of 2020
  • Lower priced packaged
  • Improved speeds
  • Free data options
  • Free mobile money transactions

“Removing this spectrum would leave more than five million South Africans without access to zero-rated websites of public benefit organisations – this would impact access to (predominantly) educational and health information whilst we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she expresses.

“Given temporary spectrum was introduced through the National State of Disaster Act, as a mechanism to assist networks in meeting sudden shifts in customer behaviour at the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns in South Africa, it may be detrimental to consumers to withdraw the allocation prematurely while the National State of Disaster remains in place,” a Vodacom spokesperson notes.

What has ICASA said?

ICASA has noted the successes of the temporary radio frequency spectrum in regards to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of communication.

“However, the Authority cannot allow the temporary spectrum assignment to assume a state of permanence,” chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng expressed as per The South African.

ICASA notes that they need time to focus efforts on the permanent licensing of the spectrum.

“It is important that the industry be allowed adequate time to plan and adjust their operations,” said ICASA’s Paseka Maleka.

Picture: Unsplash

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Sept-October 2021