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ICT SMMEs laud ‘progressive’ spectrum pathway


The release of the long-awaitedpathway for the allocation of spectrum not only pushes for an “open and diversified telecoms economy in SA”, but represents an enormous victory for small business in the ICT sector.

This is the collective message shared by the ICT SMME Chamber, Black IT Forum and Progressive Blacks in ICT, after government published the policy direction for the licensing of high-demand spectrum.

On Friday, communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams issued the spectrum policy that paves a way for licensing the wholesale open accessnetwork (WOAN).

Government has finally published the framework for spectrum allocation.

In a statement, the organisations comment: “We say bravo to minister Ndabeni-Abrahams, the deputy minister Pinky Kekana, and their teams at the Department of Communications and Digital Technology for hearing the small business cry for economic inclusion.

“We take the opportunity to emphasise that participation of black-owned women and youth enterprises will enhance inclusivity and the spirit of ICTs for all.”

End of the long wait

Since last year, the administration, including president Cyril Ramaphosa, has made numerous promises aimed at resolving the drawn-out issue of licensing high-demand radio frequency spectrum.

Last October, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) also confirmed plans to license spectrum by the end of March 2019 but that deadline came and passed.

Mobile operators have been waiting for years for allocation of 4G spectrum in order to provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services.

The last big set of spectrum issued was in the 2.1GHz band, which helped the operators in their 3G network deployment. Vodacom and MTN were allocated such spectrum, respectively, in 2004 and 2005, while Cell C received such spectrum in 2011.

Most recently, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) also ramped-up calls for spectrum to be set aside for them as well as co-operatives, especially those with black people, women, youth and those living with disabilities.

At the heart of their displeasure is the lack of inclusion of black-owned SMMEs by the ICT sector.

In the policy, Ndabeni-Abrahams appears to identify the plight of ICT small businesses, saying: “She recognises that there are over 400 players that hold electronic communications network service licences but cannot access spectrum, due to its scarcity.

“This has an adverse effect on competition, contributes to the high cost to communicate and serves as a barrier to entry for new entrants and SMMEs. Government is committed to maximising the socio-economic benefits derived from the use of the spectrum and recognises that a shared approach to spectrum use is necessary.”



Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

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