Icasa warned over harm to economy with plans to wind down spectrum

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has slammed the Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) for plans to terminate the emergency spectrum at the end of November, saying it will harm the economy.

In her weekly newsletter BLSA chief executive Busi Mavuso said that despite warnings of the damage to the economy and the fight against the pandemic, Icasa was pressing ahead with a plan to terminate access to emergency spectrum at the end of November.

“This will make it harder for workers to connect from home, leaving businesses with a difficult choice – either force workers back into the office, put them on leave or make them redundant. The move by Icasa has particularly hit the business process outsourcing sector, the one area of the economy that has managed to grow employment during the pandemic. It relies on good broadband to connect workers for tasks like call centre operations,” said Mavuso.

Mavuso added that efficient mobile broadband was particularly important for township sectors, which did not have high fixed line penetration and temporary workers who do not want the cost and long-term contracts of other forms of access.

Under disaster regulations implemented in April last year, Icasa assigned emergency radio frequency spectrum to major mobile operators such as MTN, Vodacom and Telkom paving the way for the easing of the network congestion due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the time, Icasa said the release of the spectrum would help maintain good quality broadband services, and aid licensees to lower the cost of access to digital communication for customers.

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