Paris Mashile, chairman of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), has said that WiMax spectrum in the country will be allocated within 30 days with operators getting 30 MHz each.

ICASA published its final decision on the awarding of radio frequency spectrum. The document included the selection process of suitable companies, how much spectrum should be allocated to each operator and whether licences will be awarded to national or regional players.

On the question of how the remaining WiMax spectrum will be dished out, ICASA decided to allocate 30MHz per operator on a technology-neutral basis, and stipulated that six additional national licences will be issued in the 2.5GHz band.

This decision drew sharp criticism from various industry players, including Neotel. It was argued that limited spectrum not only increases the cost of providing WiMax services, but also limits the speeds which can be offered to end users.

Neotel’s CTO, Angus Hay, said: “Neotel is of the opinion that it would not be possible to operate a WiMax wireless access network at maximum efficiency, and pass on benefits if operators are each awarded only 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.5GHz band.”

“In particular, this spectrum limit places a limit on the transmission speed possible, which is one of the key benefits of a technology like WiMax to the end customer. Neotel therefore shares the view of many WiMax experts that 30MHz per operator (a re-use factor of 3, with 10MHz per sector, three sectors per base station) is the least required for an operator to build a network to deliver true broadband services to the customer.”

ICASA Chairman Paris Mashile recently indicated that the process for licensing the sought after 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum – typically referred to as WiMax spectrum – will be announced towards the end of July. Speaking to Biz-News Mashile, was non-committal as to the exact date, “ We have 30 days to announce, remember we are not only dealing with WiMax but all the scarce resources,” he said.

Mashile provided insight into what is contained in this document, which includes that the spectrum will be technology neutral, that there will be a 30% HDI requirement and that spectrum will initially be handed out on a beauty contest model followed by a spectrum auction.

The first document regarding the awarding of radio frequency spectrum states that a company to which spectrum will be allocated must be minimum 51% black owned with an emphasis on woman in line with broad based BEE. This was widely criticized by industry, and the 30% HDI requirement is likely to be welcomed by industry as a more sensible criteria.

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