Government to open up spectrum trading in South Africa

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. Image: GCIS

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has published a draft policy document that has proposed allowing for the trading of radio frequency spectrum in South Africa.

Spectrum has been prohibited in South Africa until now.

The proposal, which government has been promising for years as part of a review of outdated legislation governing the ICT sector, is contained in a draft “next-generation radio frequency spectrum” policy document, which was gazetted this week for public comment.

TechCentral first reported on the draft proposals last week, which have also set out proposed timelines for the termination of 2G and 3G services in South Africa by 2025. The document has now been formally gazetted.

The proposals, which are aimed at supporting the “effective and efficient utilisation” of spectrum resources in South Africa, also seek to ban the hoarding of spectrum. “Licensed spectrum that is unused for a period of more than 24 months will be subjected to the use it or lose it principle,” the draft policy document states.

The document, which is largely market friendly, states that market-based approaches to the allocation and management of spectrum must be implemented to promote economic development. These include spectrum trading, spectrum sharing, dynamic spectrum access use, and spectrum “subletting” and sharing between licensees.

Read the gazetted draft policy document (PDF)

All of this will still be subject to approval by communications regulator Icasa. “The regulator must set standard operating rules, and terms and conditions applicable for trading, sharing and subletting of spectrum. The spectrum holder must follow the rules, and terms and conditions, in consultation with the regulator.”


Spectrum leasing and trading is common in many markets around the world, and is also usually the subject of regulatory oversight and rules in those countries to prevent market abuses.

Under Ntshavheni’s proposals, Icasa, with the Competition Commission, must determine if a network licence holder buying spectrum through these new trading mechanisms, including through a merger or acquisition, will have an “unfair advantage over smaller competitors”.

Read: SA may say goodbye to 2G and 3G networks by 2025

“The regulator must put in place a regulatory framework which clarifies spectrum trading rules between licensees, and promotes approaches that prohibit monopolisation of spectrum, dominance and anticompetitive behaviour in the market,” the document says.

Ntshavheni also wants to make the sharing of spectrum easier, to make more efficient use of previously exclusive-use frequencies allocated to telecommunications operators and other licensees.

Read: High drama as minister turns on Telkom at AGM

“Emerging technologies are enabling more efficient use of spectrum, either limiting the power to avoid interference to primary users or tapping into spectrum that is unused at a given time and geographic location. To promote spectrum efficiency, coordination for the purpose of spectrum sharing and the use of technologies that will enable greater spectrum sharing among different users is permitted with the prior approval of the regulator,” the draft policy document states.  – © 2022 NewsCentral Media

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