South African authority releases plans for next-gen mobile communications

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The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) announced the release of its draft Radio Frequency Migration Plan (RFMP) and a draft International Mobile Telecommunication Roadmap (IMT-R) for public scrutiny. This initiative signifies a step towards refining the management and distribution of the radio frequency spectrum in South Africa, a resource key for mobile and broadband communication services.

Icasa’s proposal for these draft documents is not just a procedural requirement but a strategic move to ensure that South Africa’s allocation and assignment of radio frequency spectrum are in harmony with international standards and technological advancements. The draft RFMP is a response to the need for the South African National Radio Frequency Plan to be updated in alignment with the Final Acts of the World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC-23). This update is essential for adhering to the resolutions set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations, thereby ensuring that South Africa remains at the forefront of global telecommunications standards.

The draft RFMP delineates specific adjustments and prerequisites for various radio communications frequency spectrums, with a particular focus on those designated for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), such as mobile networks. The radio spectrum is a fundamental asset for mobile operators, facilitating the communication between towers and mobile devices like smartphones.

Parallel to the RFMP, Icasa has introduced a draft of the IMT Roadmap for public evaluation. This document focuses on the strategic allocation and assignment of spectrum intended for mobile services and IMT systems. The roadmap is crafted to be consistent with the National Radio Frequency Plan (NRFP) of 2021, the Final Acts of WRC-23, and ITU’s Radio Regulations. It emphasizes the integration of globally harmonized frequency bands across Low, Mid, and High ranges identified for IMT. This integration is crucial for harnessing the benefits associated with next-generation mobile technologies, such as 5G and future 6G networks, thereby supporting the continuous evolution of mobile technology.

Icasa underscores the significance of global and regional harmonization of the radio frequency spectrum. Such harmonization is key to enabling South Africa to benefit from economies of scale and scope, facilitating the introduction of innovative technologies, and generating a positive impact across the telecommunications sector.

The authority highlights the increasing reliance on mobile broadband services as a primary driver for broadband technology advancements and communication services. This reliance has prompted Icasa to update its IMT Roadmap, initially revised in 2019, to reflect national expectations and strategic responses to the digital communication needs of South Africa.

Icasa’s initiative is underpinned by the ambition to ensure that mobile broadband contributes effectively to achieving the vision of ‘Broadband for All,’ as outlined in the SA Connect and the National Development Plan 2030. The proposed updates to the Radio Frequency Migration Plan and the IMT Roadmap are critical for adhering to the evolving standards of ITU.

Acting Chair of Icasa, Cathrine Mushi, expressed the authority’s dedication to long-term spectrum planning. She emphasized the goal of ensuring the most efficient use of the spectrum, prioritizing its allocation to those who can utilize it most effectively. This approach is expected to enhance spectrum utilization efficiency and support the dynamic landscape of mobile communications in South Africa.