South Africa – 5G and Rapid Deployment


FCCUp- WT Docket No. 17-79; WC Docket No. 17-84 (September 5, 2018) (1):

To meet rapidly increasing demand for wireless services and prepare our national infrastructure for 5G, providers must deploy infrastructure at significantly more locations using small cell facilities. Building upon streamlining actions already taken by state and local governments, this Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order is part of a national strategy to promote the timely build out of this new infrastructure across the country by eliminating regulatory impediments that unnecessarily add delays and costs to bringing advanced wireless services to the public.

The FCC will vote on the proposal at its September 25 meeting to encourage 5G small cell deployments. (2) Update: the Federal Communications Commission voted to restrict the abilities of local municipalities to govern public rights of way when considering the installation of small-cell wireless facilities within their jurisdictions.

South Africa:

The Electronic Communications Amendment Bill 2018 and its accompanying Explanatory Memorandum were published in the Government Gazette on 31 August 2018. (3)

-Our government is a business with a primary goal of making money.

-Our government earns income from spectrum allocation. In 2016-17, the government earned Rs 702.41 billion from communication services. For the 2018 budget it was predicted that the Government expects a 58% jump in telecom revenue for the current fiscal (4)

-Our government owns shares in telecommunication companies. (5-6)

Small Cells:

5G networks could be about eight to 10 times as dense as older-generation networks, with many more  sites needed to provide access to end users. Many of the new 5G sites will be “small cells” rather than large base stations and many will be used to provide in-building coverage. Consequently with 5G there will be thousands of small cells.

The FCC : Verizon anticipates that 5G networks will require 10 to 100 times more antenna locations than previous technologies, while AT&T estimates that carriers will deploy hundreds of thousands of wireless facilities—equal to or more than they have deployed over the last few decades. Sprint, in turn, has announced plans to build at least 40,000 new small sites over the next few years.

Small cells are already being used by some wireless operators to boost the capacity and coverage of their existing 4G networks particularly in dense urban settings.

Once everyone has “line  of sight” from their bedrooms of a small cell less than 100m away property values as a an argument opposing cell towers will be weakened (NBR, section 7 “Unsightly, objectionable and derogation of property values”). Will the City Manager /Building Control Officer decide on the public’s behalf the level of acceptability of any structure? (7)

Telecommunication companies afforded the same rights as utilities:

-The current Bill in Parliament ensures that telecommunication companies are seen as utility companies. The provision of utilities is a fundamental right overruling land owners rights.

-The telecommunications ‘utility’ would appear to take precedence over such basic rights such as sanitation,water and electricity:

– Toilets for schools: In the Eastern Cape, 5400 schools 1945 schools used pit latrines and 37 schools had no toilets. (8)

-Water: Less than half (46.4%) of South African households are estimated to have water piped in their homes, 26.8% have access to water on their property while 13.3% need to share a communal tap. 3,7% of households still had to fetch water from rivers, streams, stagnant water pools and dams, wells and springs in 2017. (9)

Townships and informal settlements in the Western Cape only consume 4% of the water supply. However, these communities are often targeted for demand driven measures through the introduction of water management devices. The introduction of these water meters has been a sore point for most communities as it is viewed as the privatization of a public good. Local government at times outsources part of water service provisioning to private companies whose main interests are profit driven, thereby driving up the cost of water. This undoubtedly has dire consequences on low income communities who despite receiving free basic water allocation, already use a significant portion of their income on other basic services including water. A basic service such as water,sanitation and electricity constitute the backbone of our democracy (10)  – but allotting the telecommunications industry these same rights is highly debatable.

-Electricity: For 5G deployment in South Africa power grid stability is essential. Will Eskom be able to deliver? Will vandalism be controlled?

Rapid Deployment

The current Bill in parliament places emphasis on a special “Rapid Deployment Team

Municipalities will be expected to comply with the rapid development proposals and not put obstacles in the way. The Rapid Deployment Team will ensure that municipalities do not interfere with ‘progress’.

President Cyril Ramaposa endorses rapid deployment and told the Telecommunications Minister to ‘speed up 4G and 5G spectrum’ (11)

Minister Cwele, on the occasion of the 5G Huddle 2018: ‘we are prioritizing the rapid deployment policy’(12)

Will communities in South Africa be allowed an input regarding small wireless facility placements?

The FCC: (13)

-It would be impractical and extremely costly to subject each individual small facility deployment to the same requirements that the Commission imposes on macro towers.

-There is also no legitimate reason why next-generation technology should be subjected to many times the regulatory burdens of its 3G and 4G predecessors. Removing § 1.1312(b)’s trigger of environmental and historic preservation review for small wireless facilities will help further Congress’s and the FCC’s goals of facilitating the deployment of advanced wireless services (such as 5G) and removing regulatory burdens that unnecessarily raise the cost and slow the deployment of the modern infrastructure used for those services.

– To be able to meet current and future needs, including deployment of advanced 4G and 5G networks, providers will need to deploy tens of thousands of small wireless facilities across the country over the coming years. The world of small wireless facility deployment is materially different from the deployment of in terms of the size of the facility, the importance of densification, and the lower likelihood of impact on surrounding areas.

-The FCC also finds little environmental and historic preservation benefit associated with requiring environmental or historic preservation assessments for small wireless facility deployment.

-Commission requirements to conduct environmental and historic preservation review pose significant obstacles to that deployment. The FCC concludes that any marginal benefit that NHPA and NEPA review might provide in this context would be outweighed by the benefits of more efficient deployment of small wireless facilities and the countervailing costs associated with such review. Accordingly, the public interest is not served by requiring small wireless facilities to continue to adhere to this costly review process.

-The FCC is not persuaded to further restrict the definition of small wireless facility by placing an aggregation limit on the number of such facilities on a given structure or pole, as some propose. The FCC is sceptical that even in scenarios involving multiple small wireless facilities deployed on a single structure or pole, the resulting aggregate deployment would resemble macro cells or towers triggering an environmental and historic preservation review.

We respectfully ask our President to consider:

South Africa is a unique country with its own unique problems. With so many people still living in poverty, without basic services,  should we not think carefully before rolling out a very expensive technology that at the moment is more industry hype than reality?(14) Should we not fix the potholes in our roads before advocating for self driving cars? Should we not rather spend money on education of our youth – the majority of whom will not be able to afford a 5G enabled smartphone anyway. Is the rollout of this technology then for a privileged few?  Do we need a reminder of the smart electrical meter disaster in Gauteng? Or the electrical buses (bought at great cost) from China that cannot go uphill? We all agree that investment is essential but consider other, safer, more reliable ways South Africa can achieve that.

EMFSA notes with concern that 5G is being trialed in both Lesotho and Soweto – were the communities/office workers involved informed at all of the fact that they are being experimented on? Are any environmental health assessments included with these trials? In other words who is keeping an eye on the health of these communities?The Department of Health? The Department of Radiation Control?  The 5G trials is for the sake of the industry to create interest and investment but at what cost to those involved?

Conclusion: 5G is not the miracle cure that will save South Africa.















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