“Set-top boxes may be irrelevant” says ICASA CEO

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In an opinion piece penned by telecoms regulator ICASA, CEO Pakamile Pongwana made the accusation that South Africa’s telecommunications industry is not making any progress towards radio frequency spectrum.

Pongwana explained that Icasa’s primary role when it comes to spectrum is to make sure that all radio frequency spectrum is used correctly and to the most efficient means possible. But this hasn’t been the case, as the assignment of the high-demand spectrum was abandoned a good number of years ago.

According to the CEO, Vodacom and MTN in particular have been spectrum constrained, where as other companies wishing to launch new products that make use of spectrum have not been assigned the necessary spectrum.

“In this regard, it is important to note that the ICT sector in South Africa is regressing because of indecision by both the regulator and the policy maker on critical issues, particularly as they relate to management and assignment of radio frequency spectrum,” he said.

In terms of LTE for mobile data connections, Pongwana is in favour of creating a wholesale open access framework so that more players in the industry have access to spectrum.

“In the mobile space there is continued shortage of spectrum for deployment of Long Term Evolution services. Spectrum is tied up in analogue transmission and that which is available has not and/or is not being assigned or issued to operators.

“That is why concepts like wholesale open access, infrastructure sharing and Mobile Virtual Network Operators become relevant for the South African context. Any future licensing process needs to take account of the need for the creation of a wholesale open access framework to enable access by a myriad of service based players to ensure rapid deployment of broadband services.”

He also took a stab at South Africa’s failure to meet the international deadline to switch over from analogue television signals to digital broadcasts, say that by the time SA gets its things in order, it will be too late.

“It is clear that we are lagging seriously behind in digital migration. By the time the Set-Top Boxes become available, they may be irrelevant because of the already available digital television sets in the market,” he said in the 1400-word opinion piece.

According to him, this will create a massive problem for Sentech, the company responsible for broadcasts in South Africa, as it will have to continue maintaining analogue transmitters while not generating any revenue from deploying and maintaining the digital transmitter network.

“Meanwhile broadcasters will be able to transmit digital signal to end users who may not be able to receive them due to non-availability of Set-Top Boxes.

[image – CC by 2.0/the autowitch]

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.