The South African Communications Forum (the SACF) welcomes the
Authority’s recognition of the potential constraints that network operators
may face as a result of the global COVID 19 pandemic. We would like to
commit to working with the Authority as an industry association and are
mindful of the framework provided for in the Disaster Management Act of
2003 and recent regulations specific to COVID 19.
2. The SACF acknowledges that there are real measures that will contribute to
the sustainability of networks to allow operators to address the anticipated
new traffic patterns which are expected to divert traffic from existing patterns
as a result of social distancing which has resulted in working, learning and
interacting online. In addition, the traffic is likely to increase further as a result
of the growing number of sites that have been zero-rated by operators.
3. As this is an incredibly uncertain time when new and contradictory patterns
are emerging, we would caution the Authority about opportunistic
applications likely to be prevalent during this national disaster.
4. Accordingly, while we support the fact that current networks may require
additional capacity to support anticipated increased traffic, we do not
believe that this is the time to introduce new networks due to the unknown
impact that it may have on the stability and quality of existing networks.
Securing Communications Infrastructure
5. During a national disaster, critical communications infrastructure elements
should be considered as national key points. Cable theft, battery theft and
vandalism deprive society of critical access to information, the ability to
communicate with emergency services and the ability to contribute to the
economy through working from home. We therefore respectfully request the
Authority to engage with the Law Enforcement Agencies to assist with
securing key facilities such as switching centres, hubs and other critical
infrastructure elements during this time, to augment the security that our
members are already providing.
6. Related to point 12 above, we would welcome any support that the Authority
can provide in the form of engagements with NERSA and ESKOM, to secure a
reliable and stable supply of electricity to networks and network equipment
that will increase network availability to consumers and emergency services.
7. We understand from some of our members that they currently have
applications before the Authority that are outstanding and should be
resolved urgently.
8. Consider relaxing aspects of the spectrum regulations enabling temporary or
“test” assignments in a manner that is explicitly linked to responses to the
COVID 19 national disaster. We do not believe that the Authority would be
able to respond with a blanket approach, instead the applications must be
assessed on a case by case basis due to the different needs of licensees.
However, to ensure transparency and fairness, it would be useful for the
Authority to publish a brief but clear framework informed by responses
received by the Authority in response to this request.
9. When considering new spectrum applications the SACF urges the Authority to
approach this cautiously due to the investment required and the
consequence or terminating services in a post disaster environment. For
a. what happens to equipment that may have been procured, or new
spectrum that has been assigned if even on a temporary basis?
b. How does the Authority address the loss of services the emergency
disaster provisions are terminated?
c. Which licence framework would be used?
10. In the Authority’s media release of 19 March 2020, ICASA, indicated its
intention to extend emergency provisions to TV White Space operators. This is
a concern as network stability is critical especially during a disaster.
11. The TV White Space Regulations have not yet been implemented and the
supporting frameworks are as yet incomplete with today being the deadline
for written comments on the Framework to Qualify to Operate a Secondary
Geo-Location Spectrum Database.
12. This talks to the incomplete and untested framework, which may compromise
the stability and quality of service of current networks rather than add
13. While, the Authority sees this as a technology to extend coverage to rural
areas, we are of the view that the implementation of untested and
incomplete frameworks should not happen during a national disaster.
Type Approval
14. Current licensees may require additional infrastructure to enhance the
capacity of networks to support anticipated spikes in the traffic. As such they
may require additional equipment.
15. Type approval has been a significant bottleneck, which prompted an industry
engagement with the Authority to better understand the process.
16. While, challenges ordinarily relate to the loss of revenue the issue of approvals
with speed is now critical to access in a national disaster. Therefore, we are of
the view that the type approval process must be expedited.
Tariff Notifications
17. Licensees submit tariffs for notification and maybe implemented after 7 days.
18. In response to COVID 19 and the President’s address directing people to
social distancing, licensees have been introducing new tariff packages in a
bid to make services more affordable. These packages largely introduce
lower rates.
19. In addition to this we welcome the tariff reductions being introduced by
several of our members in response to the Competition Commission’s Data
Market Inquiry.
20. Accordingly, the SACF urges the Authority to relax the rules for tariff
notifications allowing licensees more immediate implementation of tariffs. We
are of the view that there is a very low risk of consumer harm, as consumers
will not select packages that offer higher tariffs than are currently available.
21. The SACF therefore welcomes this initiative by the Authority and urges the
Authority to proceed cautiously and soberly relax selected processes to
enable the anticipated increased demand while not creating an
environment that would be difficult to navigate and reclaim in a post COVID
19 environment.


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