The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) recently announced that it’ll be taking back the free spectrum handed out during the harsher lockdown levels in 2020.
The temporary radio frequency allocated to mobile networks when the world was ending a little bit will be yanked away come 30 November. This will cause a sort of ‘digital load shedding’, according to BusinessTech.
Back in April 2020, Icasa made additional temporary spectrum available to help mobile networks cope with the troves of people suddenly working from home. Residential network infrastructure just wasn’t ready for this type of influx. But the important word there is ‘temporary’ — it had to end at some point.
This week operators received an email detailing how they should get off the free spectrum before 30 November.
Get outta here, MTN (and others)
According to BusinessTech, MTN’s exec for corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan says, “Since the start of the pandemic, the amount of data traffic that MTN has needed to carry for its customers has more than doubled.”
“Removing the temporary spectrum, when the pandemic remains a reality for all South Africans and before Icasa completes the spectrum auction, will have a significant impact on data supply to South Africans.”
The company is arguing that the emergency spectrum allocation should be extended in parallel with the extension of the National State of Disaster. “In fact, since the last extension, South Africa was hit by a record-breaking third wave of infections and was moved to level 4 risk adjustment level which was only dropped to level 3 on 25 July 2021.”
There’s also no date in sight for the supposed spectrum auction Icasa’s been promising for more than a decade now. Will it happen soon? We’re not betting on it. That means South Africans on all networks may lose some connectivity in certain areas. Brace yourselves.