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South African telecom regulator extends use of emergency radio frequency spectrum

PUBLISHED: Fri, 26 Mar 2021 14:40:11 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, March 26 (Reuters) – South Africa’s telecoms regulator ICASA has resolved to extend the use of temporary radio frequency spectrum issued to licensees for another two months, it said on Friday, amid delays in the auction of new permanent spectrum.

The extension means that mobile operators will continue to deliver faster connectivity to customers to meet a surge in data demand as some people continue to work from home.

Consumers will also continue to enjoy free access to certain critical health and education websites, as per the conditions of the emergency spectrum.

The extension will be from April 1 to May 31, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said in a statement.

Licensees were supposed to return the temporary spectrum to the regulator by no later than March 31, when ICASA was meant to have auctioned permanent spectrum, but a high court halted the planned auction earlier this month because the process was deemed unlawful and irrational.

ICASA has said it will appeal the Pretoria high court ruling and may directly approach the Constitutional Court, the highest legal authority in the land.

ICASA allocated the temporary spectrum to several mobile operators and other licensees in April 2020 to meet a spike in internet demand during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Following the expiry of the extension, ICASA will embark on a comprehensive review of the ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations, which include the spectrum extensions, while expediting its appeal processes, it said on Friday. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla Editing by Alistair Bell)

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