Document: Open Spectrum for Development South Africa Case Study


Introduction to Spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum refers to the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation including radio waves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays, and others. In this paper we will use the term spectrum as shorthand for the electromagnetic spectrum between 30Mhz to 300GHz. This covers most of the usable spectrum for both telecommunications and broadband purposes, including AM/FM radio and terrestrial television broadcasting, satellite communication, mobile communication, and broadband services.

The principle purpose of spectrum management is to avoid interference among spectrum users. Central to spectrum management over the last hundred years or so has been n the establishment of a document which defines what spectrum may be used for a given purpose e.g. radio, television, mobiles, etc. This process is referred to as spectrum allocation. While countries are at liberty to define their own uses for spectrum and hence their own spectrum allocation tables, most countries closely follow the standards for spectrum allocation established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Unfortunately there is no single ITU global standard for spectrum allocation. There are three, one for each of three regions defined by the ITU. South Africa falls into Region which includes Africa, Europe, the Middle East west of the Persian Gulf including Iraq, the former Soviet Union and Mongolia. The reasons for the regional divisions are historical and largely relate to diverging national and international technological agendas in which countries failed to agree on common usages for a particular range of spectrum. This is why your dual band mobile phone works in Europe but l not in North America or Japan. The ITU is now attempting to harmonise spectrum allocation globally but this process is likely to take a long time.

Along with 'allocation', the other key term in spectrum management is 'assignment'. Once allocated for a specific purpose, spectrum can be 'assigned' to specific users through a spectrum license. Alternatively, portions of spectrum may be opened up to any user by designating the spectrum as unlicensed.

Who is Responsible for Spectrum Management in South Africa

Prior to 1994, spectrum in South Africa was managed by the state body responsible for its implementation. Thus broadcast spectrum was managed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and telecommunications spectrum managed by the state telecommunications provider, Telkom. This was generally uncontentious because, prior to the rise of mobile telecommunications and wireless broadband, the availability of spectrum significantly exceeded its demand .

In 1993, the Independent Broadcasting Association (IBA) was established and in 1996 the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) was established. Among the responsibilities of these two bodies was the management of broadcast and telecommunications spectrum respectively. In 2000, the functions of the IBA and SATRA were merged into a new body, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). As a result ICASA is responsible for planning, control, and management of all communication spectrum in South Africa.

The allocation of spectrum, that is, the choice of which spectrum bands may be used for which purposes, is determined by the Department of Communications. This includes the allocation of spectrum for government and for the security services. The Department of Communications is further responsible for international coordination and approval of regional radio frequency spectrum plans that are applicable to South Africa. Finally, the Minister of Communications is responsible for setting broad policy and policy directions regarding spectrum management.

ICASA is responsible for the administration and management of all spectrum that has not been allocated to government or security usage. ICASA is responsible for assigning radio spectrum through the licensing of its use and/or the technical regulation of radio devices.

From a policy perspective, if one were looking to gain access to unlicensed or licensed spectrum under the current allocation framework, ICASA is the organisation to approach. If one were interested in lobbying for re-allocation of spectrum, the Department of Communications is the key entity to approach.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Spectrum
  • Who is Responsible for Spectrum Management in South Africa
  • Spectrum Allocation in South Africa
  • Spectrum Assignment in South Africa
  • Spectrum Auctions
  • National Spectrum Audit
  • Spectrum Fees
  • Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Switch-over
  • Unlicensed or Licence-exempt Spectrum
  • Network Infrastructure and Service Licenses in South Africa
  • Industry Associations
  • Debate
  • Spectrum Policy Resources
  • Appendix 1 – GSM Mobile Spectrum Bands
  • Appendix 2 – License Exempt Spectrum
Cover: Open Spectrum for Development South Africa Case Study


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mskand007's picture
mskand007 replied on

Please could you check the download page for this document. It does not seem like it exists