The team at Comsol Wireless Solutions are hopeful…

This week Africa turns its focus toward the biggest tech event on the continent, AfricaCom. An event that gathers together senior decision-makers from the entire digital ecosystem, this would be the ideal stage for the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to report their planned next steps in the V-band and E-band licensing debacle.

Gary Woolley, GM Solutions of Comsol, the wireless connectivity specialists, explains that not only would AfricaCom be the perfect platform for a discussion of this magnitude, but it would also fall firmly within the event’s theme for 2015, namely ‘Innovation, Transformation and Leadership for Digital Africa’. After all, finally giving operators and service providers access to this spectrum will inevitably drive innovation within the industry, enable faster and more streamlined transformation and a move on this matter by ICASA – some of the most influential leaders and governors of Africa’s digital landscape – will set the scene for strong leadership and industry growth going forward.

The situation has hit boiling point, with operators and service providers voicing their desperate need for access to the radio spectrum bands, V-band and E-band. While the former falls within the 57 – 66 GHz range and the latter at 71 – 76HGz and 81 – 86 GHz, both bands are very attractive since they offer operators the ability to use narrow beam high-capacity transmission (enabling a larger amount of information to be transmitted at a higher pace than what is currently possible in South Africa).

ICASA, however, has stalled the process by taking particularly long to present suggestions regarding the best approach to regulate and license these two bands and gazetting supporting regulations and only made public in September this year a discussion document that details their suggestions regarding.

These proposals cover possible regulatory frameworks and viable approaches to licensing. Including the possibility of taking a licence-exempt approach to V-band and a hybrid or best-of-breed approach for E-band by employing a combination of light licensing and full-licensing.
At the same time as making the discussion document public, ICASA invited industry players to consider its proposals and offer comment, so that the best and most spectrum-efficient approach can be developed.

Comsol and other industry leaders have provided input to ICASA and voiced their support in this endeavour and have also been placing the regulator under pressure to start taking action.

With the deadline for submissions of representations on the discussion document quickly approaching, Gary and the team at Comsol are hopeful that ICASA might report the insights that it has gathered thus far in the process from the submissions that they have received to date. This would provide the industry with a much-needed indication of the direction and approach that the regulator is likely to take going forward.

After all, what better place to do this than an event dedicated to Africa’s digital future. Where more than 10 000 of Africa’s most dynamic digital influencers will gather to work toward developing the African tech environment.