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Africa's poor use of spectrum for IMT worries the ATU

Africa's poor use of spectrum for IMT worries the ATU

Africa has the highest amount of spectrum available for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) systems, but has been using it, on average, at half its capacity says Kezias Mwale, Radiocommunications Coordinator for the Africa Telecommunications Union (ATU).

IMT systems are comprised of technologies and architectures designed to support the evolution of mobile broadband to improve on spectrum efficiency and utilisation. It encompasses IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced which spans the 3G and 4G industry perspective.

At the Regional Radiocommunication Seminar 2017 for Africa hosted in Senegal, Mwale attributed low usage to the lack of an enabling environment.

"In most countries, the underpinning reason is (the) lack of an optimum enabling environment for more robust investment by the operators. You understand that enabling environment is complex: taxation issues, capital markets, legal and regulatory, social-economic developmental levels, demographics for example literacy levels etc.," said Mwale.

The focus now is on the 'IMT for 2020 and beyond' programme developed by the ITU-R in 2012 to help facilitate global 5G research.

Based on the future development plan for IMT, a draft new ITU-R Recommendation (with detailed specifications for the new radio interfaces) will be submitted for approval within ITU-R by 2020 after which they could be deployed.

Mwale added that spectrum management in many African countries is not entirely based on economic consideration in terms of licensing, re-farming, policy formulation etc.

"Clearly, in these countries, regulators are not business or profit oriented. The ideal state of regulators is not being business or profit oriented but rather performs its duties consistent with the overall national objectives for the ICT sector and the wider social-economic agenda of the nation," said Mwale.

To achieve this, he urged that regulators need to intrinsically carry out their duties as if it were a 'for-profit-business' in terms of strategy formulation, tactical approaches and overall operational efficiencies and effectiveness.

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