South Africa takes a step closer to spectrum trading


Government is moving to liberalise South Africa’s telecommunications industry further by establishing the ground rules for spectrum trading and spectrum sharing.

In a policy document on next-generation spectrum for economic development, published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday – a day before South Africa’s general election – communications minister Mondli Gungubele has sought to begin the process of defining a regulatory framework for how spectrum trading and sharing will work in practice.

“To promote economic development, market-based approaches such as spectrum trading, spectrum sharing, dynamic spectrum access use and spectrum ‘subletting’ and/or sharing between licensees, which ensure public policy gains in the use of spectrum, are permitted with prior approval” of communications regulator Icasa, the policy document states.

Icasa must set standard operating rules, terms and conditions applicable for the trading, sharing and subletting of spectrum, it says.


  • Spectrum holders must follow the rules, terms and conditions in consultation with Icasa;
  • Both Icasa and the Competition Commission should ascertain that an individual licence holder (typically a network operator) acquiring spectrum will not have a negative impact on competition, impeding lower prices for services and gaining an unfair competitive advantage over smaller rivals;
  • Icasa must scrutinise all transactions relating to the sharing of spectrum between licensees, regardless of how these transactions are portrayed or labelled;
  • All transactions involving high-demand spectrum – where demand for spectrum outweighs available supply – must be investigated, irrespective of how the transactions are characterised;
  • Icasa must put in place a regulatory framework that clarifies spectrum trading rules between licensees and promotes approaches that prohibit monopolisation of spectrum, dominance and anticompetitive behaviour; and
  • Coordination for the purpose of spectrum sharing and the use of technologies that will enable greater spectrum sharing among different users will be permitted, but only with Icasa’s prior approval.

In a significant change to the licensing of spectrum for exclusive use – including the spectrum awarded to telecoms operators to provide voice and data services to consumers – government says in the policy document that it “supports the determination that in licensed bands a ‘right to exclusivity’ in spectrum licensing be transformed into a ‘right to protection from interference’”.

“In spectrum licensing, the principle will enable the authority (Icasa) to implement spectrum sharing in a manner that preserves all the rights of the licence holder, while at the same time unlocking the potential of unused spectrum for sharing,” the policy document reads.

“The authority must provide protection and enforcement to the licensee and ensure that no other users transmit over the same spectrum band in the same geographic area without prior authorisation. The authority must set the rules and regulations for new licensed spectrum such that the principle of ‘use it or sharing it’ is allowed.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here