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SA govt urges investment as it preps to exploit digital resources

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, communications and digital technologies minister.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, communications and digital technologies minister.

South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has urged investment into the country saying the country is poised to take advantage of digital resources, and also confirmed the roll out of licenced International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum for auction by end December 2020.

The Minister confirmed the development in a virtual presentation hosted during the Huawei Better World Summit 2020.

In early July 2020 ITWeb reported that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) would “slightly delay” publication of the ITA (invitation to apply) for the wholesale open access network (WOAN) and IMT spectrum.

ITWeb added that IMT spectrum, commonly known as high-demand spectrum, is for licences in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.3GHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands, which the regulator plans to auction by December 2020.

Emphasising the role of spectrum allocation, specifically to drive 5Grollout and strengthen the country’s digital infrastructure and 4IR ambitions, Ndabeni-Abrahams acknowledged the country’s shortfall in terms of available infrastructure and said now was the time to leverage digital technologies.

“As I am speaking to you now, President Ramaphosa and his team is hosting the infrastructure symposium in South Africa where we are galvanising support from the investors… we can no longer wait, and therefore South Africa has to leapfrog. As we understand the poor infrastructure challenges that we have, we do understand that we are confident of the future that we have. We have missed on investing on certain infrastructure, but (now) is the time for us to leverage on digital technologies as we march towards the fourth industrial revolution era… of course, not as consumers this time, but the effective participants in order to turn around our economy.”

The Minister said she was aware of complaints that South Africa had delayed spectrum release, but said the country had introduced a policy directive on spectrum allocation in 2019.

She said this directive will guide the provision of the resource according to a hybrid model and ensure that South Africans no longer remain mere consumers of digital services, but engage in meaningful participation.

The country will use the policy to introduce and maintain a hybrid spectrum provision model, which facilitates auction to high demand spectrum users, and that the resource is then shared with previously disadvantaged South Africans.

“I did say that we want to turn things around,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams, adding that the foundation of rolling out 4IR and all its components is dependent on 5G technology.

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