CAPE TOWN, May 24 (Reuters) – Six South African telecom companies, including MTN Group MTNJ.J and Vodacom VODJ.J, will be able to keep their in-demand broadband spectrum until their licences expire in 2028 after agreeing to buy at least 30 percent of the government’s new Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN), the communications minister said on Thursday.

Minister Siyabonga Cwele told journalists an agreement was reached with operators on May 19, after they initially opposed a government plan forcing them to ditch their broadband spectrum and share a national network.

Creating a single open-access network is at the heart of a government goal to roll out broadband access in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

In a statement mobile operator Telkom says it welcomes the study proposed by Cwele, to investigate, amongst other things, the amount of spectrum to be used by the planned national WOAN.

Adding that WOAN, “proposed as a policy intervention must be given an opportunity to succeed to level the playing field within the sector.

“This will ensure that barriers to entry for small players are lowered, which will result in increased competition.
We are, however, weary of proposals to allocate the unused spectrum through an auction as this will further entrench the current duopoly and may have a negative effect on the consumer.

“The minister and the regulator must recognise that Telkom does not have the Sub 1 GHz Spectrum, which inhibits our ability to compete fairly. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency”.