South Africa’s emergency spectrum versus permanent spectrum allocation

The auction for the high demand spectrum has been delayed to no later than 31 March 2021.

According to research by World Wide Worx, mobile networks have noted that the emergency spectrum they received – particularly in the 700-800 MHz bands – is “dirty spectrum.”

This is because this spectrum is degraded by interference, meaning it doesn’t allow for optimal connectivity.


“The 700-800 MHz emergency spectrum can only be used for experimentation and innovation for now.”

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t use this emergency spectrum in the areas we expected and wanted to release in because of high-levels of interference from analogue.”

MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said that MTN hopes ICASA will extend the deployment of temporary spectrum until the auction takes place. 


“One of the biggest challenges is around the usability of the emergency spectrum band we were issued.”  

“We would like to see a complete migration path to getting analogue out of and digital into those bands.”

The delay to the spectrum auction will have an effect on mobile networks that were hoping to use this new spectrum to improve their network quality and coverage.

While the allocation of temporary spectrum was done to help these networks, this spectrum does not offer the same benefits that permanent spectrum allocation will offer.

What and how much spectrum is needed for 5G?

5G needs a significant amount of new harmonised mobile spectrum so defragmenting and clearing prime bands should be prioritised. Regulators should aim to make available 80-100 MHz of contiguous spectrum per operator in prime 5G mid-bands (i.e. 3.5 GHz) and around 1 GHz per operator in high-bands (i.e. mmWave spectrum). Low-bands are also needed to support widespread coverage across urban, suburban and rural areas and help support Internet of Things (IoT) services.  


[23 August 2020] Parliament hosted a round-table discussion on spectrum licensing & management in telecommunication & broadcasting sectors as well as its implications for 4IR on 19 August 2020. Presentations were made by the South African Communications Forum (SACF), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) .


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