Vodacom and MTN to share 5G spectrum

The additional radio frequency spectrum earmarked for 5G networks is licensed in South Africa. The aim is for cellular network operators to share it, according to the Minister of Telecommunications, Siyabonga Cwele. 

Cwele did not provide specifics, but confirmed that the spectrum will be shared. In line with his department’s policy on 4G spectrum, where 5G spectrum is assigned to a single network operator, that operator will be obligated to offer wholesale open access to its network.

South Africa will begin licensing radio frequency spectrum for use in 5G networks as soon as the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) concludes next year in November.

5G spectrum licenses are expected to be issued in South Africa during 2020, which the department said will put the country in a position to be among the first in the world to offer 5G services. However, Vodacom and MTN have stated that there is no need to wait to begin the process.

While the debate over the licensing of 5G spectrum continues, Cwele has committed to release spectrum that has been highly sought after for 4G networks.

Cwele aimed to license outstanding 4G and digital dividend spectrum by March 2019. However, the ministry later added that it hopes to conduct an auction for this high-demand spectrum in April.

The department said that when the assignment process kicks off, they plan to allocate spectrum in the 2.6GHz, 700MHz, and 800MHz frequency bands. It is worth noting that the 700MHz and 800MHz bands will only be available when South Africa completes its migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. The latest deadline for digital TV migration is June 2019.