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Woan must get only a ‘small’ spectrum set-aside: treasury

Staff Writer's picture

This article was originally published on TechCentral

Government’s planned wholesale open-access network (Woan) should only get a small set-aside of radio frequency spectrum, with the rest auctioned off to commercial operators, national treasury has said.

In a strategy document published on its website on Tuesday, treasury has set out plans for the revival of South Africa’s moribund economy. It deals with everything from electricity distribution to telecommunications and helping support and grow small and medium enterprises.

The document makes no bones about the challenges facing the economy. “The combination of low growth and rising unemployment means that South Africa’s economic trajectory is unsustainable,” it says. “Government should implement a series of growth reforms that promote economic transformation, support labour-intensive growth and create a globally competitive economy.”

It says the plans, if implemented, can raise potential economic growth by as much as three percentage points and create over a million job opportunities.

On telecommunications specifically, the document says:

  • Government should release spectrum through an auction with a small set-aside for a government-controlled network, and competition should be allowed in Telkom’s infrastructure that connects the local exchange to residential homes and businesses. The latter intervention refers to local-loop unbundling, the relevance of which may have diminished significantly in recent years with the roll-out by Telkom competitors of home and business fibre infrastructure. “Immediate enforcement will allow multiple providers access, enhancing competition and reducing unnecessary infrastructure duplication,” the treasury document says.
  • Rapid deployment guidelines that accelerate the installation of telecoms infrastructure should be finalised, and open-access conditions should be imposed to minimise unnecessary duplication of infrastructure.
  • Communications regulator Icasa’s proposed economic regulation component should be independent of line departments and be directly funded from industry levies, as per international best practice.
  • The state should leverage private-sector expertise in broadband roll-out, rather than relying exclusively on state-owned companies.

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