SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022

SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 1
4th March 2022
We refer to the above published notice in GG 45690 on the 24th December 2021.
The written response of the South African Communications Forum follows.
We confirm our availability and indeed request that you include us in in any public
hearings or workshops in regard to this matter, should the Authority elect to hold same
following receipt of written responses.
Kindly acknowledge receipt of this submission.
Katharina Pillay
SA Communications Forum
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 2
1. The South African Communications Forum (SACF) is an industry association that
represents a broad cross-section of leading players in the ICT value chain and are
impacted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s
(ICASA’s) regulations either directly or indirectly.
2. The SACF welcomes the opportunity to participate in ICASA’s public consultation
on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum as published on Christmas Eve, 24
December 2021.
3. We would like to place on record our interest in further participation in this regard,
including any public hearings or workshops.
4. The South African Communications Forum (“SACF”) extends its appreciation to the
Authority for the opportunity to comment on this issue. In particular, we welcome
ICASA’s forward-looking approach.
5. Spectrum planning is a long-term process, in that licenses are typically issued for a
period of 20 years and investments are made in equipment which has a life cycle
of at least five years. However, technology changes much more swiftly and
flexibility is therefore required in the licensing framework.
6. The Authority is to be commended on what appears to be a very thorough
document, which raises many issues to consider, in considerable detail.
7. SACF submissions are limited to areas of consensus by our members, in instances
where our members have divergent views these will be included in their respective
SACF Concerns about the Submission Deadline and Effective Public Consultation
8. The SACF is obliged to place its concerns about the effectiveness and fairness of
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 3
this public consultation and its prejudice to our effective and meaningful
participation in the process.
9. ICASA published the Long-Term Outlook on Spectrum on 24 December 2021, at a
time when it is common cause that South Africans are on holiday for the Christmas
and summer break. Even ICASA was closed at the time which was clearly set out
in the Chairperson’s affidavit in response to Telkom’s application to interdict ICASA
from proceeding in the licensing of high demand IMT spectrum.
10. The SACF requested an extension to the submission deadline which was denied
due to ICASA’s concerns about its ability to meet its target for this project. However,
it is not immediately apparent what the APP target in this regard is.
11. The SACF had requested an extension to the submission deadline because a core
membership component of the SACF has consistently been engaged in ICASA
processes and overwhelmed by the related activities thus not allowing us, and we
imagine other stakeholders, sufficient time to engage on this document. Our
reasons included the holidays, participation in and preparing bids for the IMT
auction, opposing the legal challenge against the licensing of high demand
spectrum, the mock auction which also took place this week, combined with
commentary on the RFS Migration Plan and IMT Roadmap. All these processes
require the participation and skills of the same limited human resources across our
members. The consequence is that the input and participation has become
limited, and our commentary is more superficial than we would prefer, which is
extremely unfortunate.
12. We disagree with ICASA’s assertion that the time given to stakeholders was
reasonable, as this process and public consultation is unusual and can only be
likened to an Inquiry. The ECA provides that stakeholders are given a minimum
of 45 working days to submit written commentary. This as we understand is the
minimum number of days that must be given to stakeholders. There is nothing
in the empowering legislation that precludes ICASA from giving stakeholders
more time.
The SACF would argue that ICASA did indeed not give stakeholders even the bare
minimum 45 days as required in law.
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 4
The document was published on 24th December 2021 which as we have said
falls squarely during the holidays. The 45-day count would then begin on the
next business day, which even by ICASA’s Chairperson’s affidavit to the High
Court is at the earliest on the 3rd of January 2022. Most of our members returned
to work between the 3rd and 5th January 2022.
14. It would therefore be reasonable to begin counting 45 days from 3rd January
2022, which would be the 7th of March 2022. We set out the reasons why 45 days
from was inadequate based on the number of critical and urgent parallel
15. The SACF is an industry association with an operating model that is premised on
consultation with our members to ascertain their views and debate the varied
positions to reach a consensus position for inclusion in a submission. Due to the
multiple parallel processes surrounding spectrum and the imminent licensing
process it has made effective consultation with our members challenging and
not given them the opportunity to reasonably provide commentary.
16. Therefore, we find this approach by ICASA to be extremely prejudicial and
limiting to commentary. Below we set out the key tenets for what would
constitute effective public participation. This in our view is extremely important
if consultation is to be meaningful. Regrettably, in our view the consultation has
been superficial at best to meet the timelines on a project plan rather than
meaningfully and effectively consult.
Effective Public Consultation
17. Public consultation is a key element of any regulatory process and is explicitly
enshrined in the constitution and founding legislation. It is a critical element of
any regulatory, policy or legislative process to enable all affected stakeholders
an opportunity to present their challenges and concerns and to make
proposals on envisaged solutions to address the identified challenges and
18. It is equally important that stakeholders have a clear understanding of the
problem being cured as this would assist stakeholders to proffer solutions.
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 5
19. The public consultation process improves transparency and the quality of the
regulations because of the diversity of ideas, solutions, and perspectives
considered. Public consultations ought to be viewed on the same basis as the
principle of network externalities1, where every additional comment adds value
to the collective and the process. Conversely, anyone whose input is denied
prejudices the process and collective by depriving the collective of the ability
to consider the additional perspectives that will shape the outcome.
20. It is imperative to draw the distinction between competitive and noncompetitive processes as the approach to each would be different. The
approach to a non-competitive public consultation would be more relaxed
because of the objective of the process.
21. A competitive process would of course be less flexible due to the potential
prejudice to be suffered by participants.
22. The integrity, fairness, transparency, and consistency of a competitive process
must be sacrosanct to mitigate legal challenges. Legal challenges can never
be eliminated but can be mitigated when the prospect of success is limited.
23. Adequate notification and awareness of the process is essential for
stakeholders to participate. Therefore, it is essential that the process and the
timeframes are clear. Stakeholders cannot participate in a process that they
unaware of or where the timeframes are particularly short.
24. Meaningful consultation is premised on the ability of stakeholders to consider
regulatory proposals and to do the necessary scenario planning to assess the
impact. This is a critical element of providing meaningful commentary.
Therefore, the timing of the publications and processes is important.
25. While ICASA publishes an annual plan, the SACF urges ICASA to ensure a better
spread of overlapping and similar categories of projects due to the limited
resources of stakeholders. The most severely prejudiced stakeholders would be
those with more limited resources.
26. ICASA should consider that many stakeholders do not have the human
capacity to respond to multiple public consultations at the same time. If there
are multiple parallel consultations, then the response times should be
staggered over time while taking the public interest into account.
27. ICASA has recently adopted an unnecessarily harsh approach to receipt of
submissions and requests for extensions despite the detailed reasoning and
1 Metcalfe’s law – Wikipedia
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 6
commentary periods which in our view significantly undermines the public
consultation process, appearing to reduce it to a superficial consultation.
28. A standardisation of the processes and submission times would be more helpful
and inclusive and as a result can only enhance the process and outcome.
Investment, Regulatory Certainty and Economic Development
29. The ICT sector is an investment intensive sector in terms of the ongoing network
expansions upgrades and maintenance. Therefore, it is essential that ICASA is
cognizant of the critical dependency of the ICT sector on investment and the
concomitant dependency on regulatory certainty. The digitation is key to
economic growth and development.
30. The COVID pandemic has highlighted the critical need for the digitization of
the organisation and businesses and has produced significant evidence linking
operational success with digitsation.
31. The online platforms instantly became an overnight success as it enabled
remote working and learning enabling continued economic activity.
32. This stimulated the exponential growth of online platforms and services which
has become the norm and will remain a part of all aspects of everyday where
no geographic locations mean less, and ubiquitous levels of service becomes
more critical.
33. This has increased the prominence and critical role of cloud-based services
and data centres.
34. The SACF is concerned that some bands that were earmarked for IMT were
historically licensed through opaque processes, favouring some licensees over
others. SACF urges that all licensing must be fair and transparent, allowing all
eligible and interested parties to fairly compete for access to available
35. Regulatory certainty is always important but more so in capital intensive sectors
where very significant levels of investment are required. Therefore, it is
imperative that processes are consistent, clear, fair, and transparent.
36. The SACF has in previous submissions raised our concerns about the opaque
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 7
licensing processes, this remains a concern as it does not provide regulatory
certainty and is bad for investment which is one of the objects of the ECA.
37. The processes must be consistent, clear, fair, and transparent. In the bands
where demand exceeds supply, ICASA must apply a competitive process.
38. In addition to processes being clear, fair, transparent, and consistent, it is
important that ICASA has a standard approach to issues so that no licensee is
prejudiced over another.
Forward looking Approach
39. Spectrum is one of the most critical elements in the mobile sector and enables
network growth but nevertheless is an input and not an end. Accordingly, the
SACF is of the view that ICASA must adopt a forward-looking approach to this
40. The context and prompt for this inquiry is unclear. It is nevertheless important for
ICASA to adopt a forward looking, agile and efficient approach to the licensing
of spectrum.
41. We note the time horizon of 20 years, and it is unclear what informs this
timeframe. ICASA must note that it is almost an absolute certainty that any
forecasts are likely to be off by a large margin as technology and user demand
and needs evolve organically and it is difficult to predict, therefore a ten-year
horizon is more reasonable. The 20-year forecasts are best guesses by industry.
42. The SACF is of the view that ICASA must adopt an approach to licensing and
planning that prioritises technologies that provide the broadest connectivity.
43. Newer and upcoming technologies provided on a best-efforts basis
should attract a lower proportion of the assigned spectrum in a manner that
enables the development and evolution of new technologies and platforms,
without creating a wasteland of spectrum that has been assigned based on
a new hype as was the case with the hype of Wi-Max.
Use of Spectrum Sharing techniques
40. The SACF understands that spectrum is a scarce resource that requires efficient
utilisation. This can be achieved using modern technologies that seek to optimise
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 8
the use of the resource. Spectrum sharing, trading, and pooling can be useful tools
to ensure the most effective and efficient use of assigned spectrum. However, it is
important that this is done on a commercially agreed basis to prevent the undue
prejudice to licensees.
41. A clear framework will protect all interested stakeholders and provide much
needed regulatory certainty.
Spectrum sharing has been embraced across the world, including here in South
Africa. SACF urges the Authority to fully embrace spectrum sharing on all
applicable frequency bands to achieve the most efficient utilisation of the
available spectrum.
Principles towards licensing
42. The SACF is of the view that ICASA must look at a licensing framework that seeks to
licence services that connect the largest sectors of the population. This will include
current, services that are new now, and services yet to be imagined.
43. Affordability is paramount to enable the effective take-up and use of services.
Resultantly critical resources must be licensed efficiently at reasonable rates to
make services affordable.
44. Please comment on whether the above captures the relevant regulatory and
policy aspects of long-term spectrum planning.
• Section 2 of the notice captures some very relevant policy aspects for
spectrum planning.
• In particular we highlight the SA Connect targets and the assessment of
penetration of broadband connectivity.
• The guidelines from CRASA and the ATU recommendation are useful tools for
ICASA to develop its spectrum policy.
• We recommend ICASA to take account of the ITU process. In particular, we
note that additional bands are on the agenda of the WRC-23 for a possible
identification for IMT or for Mobile services. Agenda items 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.5
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 9
of the WRC-23 cover these potential new bands. We recommend ICASA to
include the bands under consideration in these Agenda Items in its long-term
spectrum planning.
• We note that the concept of spectrum sharing is mentioned over 40 times in
the document. While we acknowledge that the ECA raises the subject, it is not
one to which much attention has been paid in the past.
• The SACF is of the view that spectrum sharing, trading and pooling will
contribute to the efficient and effective use of spectrum, but must have a clear
regulatory framework that enables effective commercial negotiations in this
43. Are there services, in addition to broadband, that ought to be considered as
important for economic growth? If so, please explain what these services might
be and what the trade-offs are between using spectrum for broadband and
alternative services. Please provide any evidence from other countries that
may be relevant.
• There is an assumption that the terms “broadband” and “mobile” or “IMT” are
synonymous. In practice, in a country as large as South Africa, with many areas
of relatively low population density, fixed wireless connectivity is an essential
adjunct, or even replacement for, fixed fibre connectivity.
• We note that the Minister recently announced the end of this month as the
Analogue Switch Off (ASO) date for terrestrial television2. There is a tension
between the use of the UHF bands for DTT and for broadband purposes. In our
view, the only logical answer is to use DTH (Direct To Home satellite transmission)
for TV broadcasting, and to make the entirety of the 470 – 896 MHz band
available for broadband uses3. Simply driving past Zandspruit in Honeydew, for
example, makes it clear that significant numbers of people in informal housing
have satellite receivers.
• The emerging field of IoT may well become important for economic growth.
This is perhaps particularly important in the field of microgrids, as Eskom’s
2 SA to start analogue TV switch-off in March | SAnews 3 Digital TV deadlines – All the broken promises (
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 10
increasing inability to provide any semblance of reliable electricity supply
affects the economy progressively negatively.
45. Please comment on the above assessment of the status quo on broadband
penetration in South Africa, and what role the spectrum may play in addressing the
gaps identified.
• The assessment of broadband penetration in section 3.2 is accurate.
• We agree that the low level of home broadband outside of Gauteng and the
Western Cape is a source of concern, as well as the low Internet access
penetration levels in rural provinces.
• There are many reasons that explain this, with the lack of mobile spectrum
being one of the main causes of low Internet availability in rural areas.
• Additional mobile spectrum in low-frequency bands such as (700 MHz, 800 MHz)
would help alleviate this. In addition, additional spectrum in mid-frequency
bands (between 2 GHz and 7 GHz) would support the deployment of fixed
wireless access in urban/suburban areas without fibre coverage.
46. What future changes, if any, should ICASA examine about the existing licensing
regime to better plan for innovative new technologies and applications and allow
for benefits that new technology can offer, such as improved spectrum efficiency?
• A key element of 5G systems is the use of active antennas. These antennas
have electronically steered and formed beams, which vary their direction and
gain very rapidly according to the needs of the service.
• The regulatory limits for emissions of this type of antennas should be specified
in terms of Total Radiated Power (TRP) instead of the traditional Effective
Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) limits, as EIRP limits are too restrictive and do
not account for the fact that, although instantaneous power can be very high,
on average the power radiated in any particular direction is low.
• The TRP is the approach followed by CEPT and other regulatory authorities and
we recommend that ICASA follows that route for the technical conditions of
IMT licenses in the mid and high-frequency bands.
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 11
47. What future emerging technologies are to be taken into consideration and which
technologies will have a significant impact? When are these technologies
expected to become available?
• It is expected that technology will improve such that progressively higher
frequencies, well above those currently under consideration, will become
increasingly important. This especially applies to high throughput applications.
In addition, some of these high frequencies will be important for short range IoT
48. What and how will technology developments and/or usage trends aid in relieving
traffic pressures? When are these technologies expected to become available?
• See comment about higher frequencies above.
49. Please provide your views regarding the standardization of the naming of
applications in the NRFP in accordance with CEPT ECC decision 1(03) approved 15
November 2001 and its subsequent revisions.
• We recommend that ICASA, with its peers in CRASA, attends to the matter of
defining the three layers corresponding to the CEPT definitions.
50. How should demand for commercial mobile services and IMT in the next few years
be determined? What traffic model should be used in South Africa for traffic
demand expectations? What are your comments on the spectrum requirements
set out in Table 2? What are your views on using the Recommendation ITU-R
M.1768-1 methodology to forecast IMT spectrum demand in South Africa? Please
complete the input parameters in the attached spreadsheet for the market study
information needed to apply the Recommendation ITU-R M.1768-1.
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 12
• Demand for mobile services is subject to a large number of variables and
therefore difficult to determine. There are a number of forecasts that can be
used as a reference, such as the Ericsson Mobility reports and ITU-R Report
• The first wave of 5G is being deployed in SA in the C-band for FWA. However,
the spectrum will not be enough to sustain capacity demand in SA between
2023 and 2030.
The following qualitative factors are important to understand the future IMT traffic
demand in SA:
• Globally 5G penetration is expected to grow very fast in the next 6 years
reaching 3.5 billion users globally (Ericsson Mobility Report Nov 2020).
• The average mobile traffic per subscriber is expected to also grow up to 270
GB/month/subscriber (ITU report) supported by unlimited data plans and better
5G performance.
• Rural areas in SA would benefit from the use of a combination of technologies
although, there ought to be a clear licensing bias that focuses on technologies
have the widest appeal.
• Uniform/continuous high capacity coverage cannot be delivered citywide
and on motorways in a cost-efficient manner with mmWave (high capacity in
hotspots) and cannot be served by low frequency bands (large coverage but
not enough capacity to serve the target obligation).
• South Africa has significant evidence that regional networks been far less
successful than national networks.
• As acknowledged by ICASA in section 3.2 of the consultation, fixed broadband
penetration is low in many locations in the country.
• This will not change in the short term. As a result, many SA consumers are likely
to rely on mobile broadband for connectivity at home.
• The GSMA´s report on “Estimating the mid-bands spectrum needs in the 2025-
2030 time frame”4 provides a good approach to calculating traffic and the
resulting spectrum needs.
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 13
• This report takes the IMT-2020 requirements as starting point, notably the 100
Mbps user experienced data rate.
• It then considers how it can be fulfilled in several urban areas in the world,
including Johannesburg.
• It shows that the spectrum needs in Johannesburg in the mid-bands would be
between 1690 and 2010 MHz, including existing and scheduled assignments.
We believe this report provides one of the best approaches to estimating
spectrum requirements for 5G alongside the ITU Recommendation.
57. Are the spectrum allocations comprehensive enough for spectrum demand
projections for commercial mobile services in South Africa for the next 10 to 20
• No. As noted under Question 11 above, the GSMA estimate over less than 10
years exceeds 2000 MHz.
58. Is there a demand for more flexible frequency licensing and frequency
assignment/allotments processes on a regional basis required to complement the
national frequency licensing and frequency assignments/allotments in the next 10 to
20 years?
We do not think that regional assignments are a good solution for the IMT spectrum for
South Africa. Regional licenses have significant disadvantages:
• Regional licenses require buffer zones at the boundaries to avoid co-channel
interference between users on each side. This multiplies with smaller divisions,
unless regions are assigned separate groups of channels, such as in the Seven
Mux Plan for DTT in South Africa.
• There would be an additional burden for ICASA to define, issue, and manage
licenses, and for the operators to plan and run networks.
• Seamless coverage along transport paths (rail, roads) becomes complicated.
SACF Comments on ICASA Document on the Long-Term Outlook of Spectrum -March 2022 14
• Regional licenses do not have a good track record: past initiatives to allocate
spectrum licenses on a regional or local basis have not been very successful
(e.g. 3.5 GHz bands around 10 years ago in some countries).
• Two recent C-band auctions (Austria, Ireland) proposed regional licensing
across the whole band but have ended up with national licensing with the
exception of a small part of the band
• However, there is a strong case to be made for more flexible licensing
58. Are there any other frequency bands that should be considered for release in
the next 10 to 20 years for commercial mobile that is not discussed? Provide
motivations for your proposal.
• The 6425-7125 MHz band is under consideration for IMT identification at WRC23.
• It is a key band for the future development of 5G and future evolutions of the
IMT family of technologies.
• It is likely the last remaining band below 26 GHz and above 1 GHz that can be
made available for IMT.
• Once it is agreed at WRC-23, we believe that countries will open it for mobile
use in the 2024-2030 timeframe.
• We recommend ICASA to include this band in its future plans for the second
part of the decade.
61. What are your views on reallocating the following bands for IMT over the next
years? 44 Table 3: List of possible future IMT bands (please supplement or delete
as your organization considers reasonable)


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