The government of South Africa is allowing six companies to retain their broadband spectrum until the licences lapse in 2028 on the condition that they collectively obtain at least 30% of its planned shared network.
The proposed single open access network is a government initiative aimed at increasing nationwide broadband coverage to deliver internet access to 80% of South Africa’s population by 2019. Currently only 40% of the country’s population are able to access broadband coverage.
To accomplish this goal, spectrum would be pooled and licensed to a national wholesale access network operator, which would be set up as a private-public partnership. The proposal was initially rejected by several major operators, including MTN, Telkom and Vodacom, on the grounds that it would undermine the investment that they had already made into their own networks.
Telkom – in which the government holds a majority stake – objected to relinquishing spectrum that had already been allocated to it, although it did support certain aspects of the shared network. However, the country’s minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, has confirmed that a deal has been struck between the government and operator partners, including the aforementioned operators.