TV White Spaces must be released or South Africa will lose multi-million dollar investment – WAPA

The Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) has warned that if South Africa does not get the necessary legislation for commercial TV White Spaces (TVWS) in place soon, the country could lose out on a multi-million dollar investment.

“We know of multi-million dollar investment plans that expected commercial TVWS to be completed by May 2020. The delay may cause the investment to go elsewhere,” WAPA chair Tim Genders told MyBroadband.

This comes after a report on Tech Financials that the Black Information Technology Forum (BITF) is taking the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to court to challenge its decision to delay the availability of TVWS.

“The BITF resolved to launch an urgent legal process to challenge ICASA’s decision to delay commencement of commercial TV White Space (TVWS) in court and expose any individual at ICASA and their external handlers that are using public resources to sabotage progressive transformational government programmes meant to save lives during the COVID- 19 disaster period and assist rural economy recovery beyond the COVID-19 period,” the organisation said in a statement.

ICASA has denied the BITF’s allegations, stating that there have been no delays.

According to ICASA, it has been proactive in making TVWS technology available even though the regulatory framework has not yet been finalised.

“If anything, ICASA has actively pursued and promoted this technology. It is important to note that ICASA is required to operate within the confines of the applicable legislative framework and has embarked on a fair and transparent process for purposes of the speedy implementation of TVWS technologies,” the regulator stated.

It highlighted the fact that it has made TVWS available during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of its proactive approach.

Multi-million dollar investment

WAPA’s Genders said that they encourage ICASA to get the legislation in place for commercial TVWS as soon as possible.

“Other countries have found that by opening up spectrum, service delivery improves and price to the end consumer reduces. Spectrum in the 6GHz band can be made available for Wi-Fi. In the United States of America the FCC opened 45MHz of 5.9GHz under COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

Genders said the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need to get fixed broadband into every South African home and that currently only 10% of homes enjoy that privilege.

“ICASA has issued spectrum under COVID-19 but this has favoured the incumbent large players,” Genders stated.

“WAPA encourages ICASA to lead the way in connecting the unconnected. We would rather see court action against ICASA due to releasing too much spectrum as opposed to holding back. Any delay on issuing spectrum and the net winners are the large mobile network operators, the net losers are 90% of the population who don’t enjoy fixed broadband to their homes at an affordable price.”

Regarding the details of the multi-million dollar investment, Genders said that they are planning to give an update on the one year anniversary of the WAPA USTDA TVWS project in August.

“We do not have permission yet to reveal the funders as it is at a very sensitive stage.”

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