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SONA 2020

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Deep cuts in data prices and high demand spectrum to be released this year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address announced that the competition authorities are now working towards a resolution with large mobile operators to secure deep cuts in data prices across pre-paid monthly bundles, additional discounts targeted at low income households, a free allocation of data and free access to educational and other public interest websites.

The President said:” this an important step to improve lives, bring people into the digital economy and stimulate online businesses. The digital economy will increasingly become a driver of growth and creator of employment”

About the Fourth Industrial Revolution the President told the nation that his Presidential commission has made far reaching recommendations that impact on nearly every aspects of the economy and in many areas of our lives. He said that the commission’s report provides us with the tools to ensure that we extract the greatest benefit of the revolutionary technical changes. The President acknowledged that an important condition for success of our digital economy is the availability of high demand spectrum to expand broadband access and reliability.

The regulator, ICASA, has undertaken to conclude the licencing of high demand spectrum to industry via auction during this year. He added that because of additional requirements, the licensing of the wireless open access network (WOAN) is likely to be completed during next year.

The President made a similar announcement last year when he pointedly addressed his remarks to the Minister of Communication and Digital Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams to the effect of “get on with spectrum release”.  Now a year later we have arrived at the point where ICASA has received input from industry and is expected to announce its policy as early as next month.

One major departure from past policies is that spectrum will be auctioned. This was a long-time sticking point in political circles where a beauty contest was favoured whereby spectrum would be allocated to newcomers in the industry.  Newcomers will now be accommodated in the WOAN, when it comes about, and government is able to sign up industry partners to make the project viable. World-wide the WOAN concept is considered a still born concept.

In a rushed media briefing in December, Minister Abrahams announced some far-reaching changes in South Africa’s communications structure with implementation said to have started on January 1. To date the Minister and the affected entities are mum.  Watch this space!

Read more about these structural changes in the communication environment in the printed edition of EngineerIT due to be published during next week.

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