The Department of Communications (DoC) has published its Second Digital Dividend Final Report and Implementation Plan, which values the 700MHz band of spectrum, over the period 2015 – 2026, at approximately R3.5 billion.
The DoC commissioned financial services firm, Deloitte, to conduct a study on the use of the 2nd Digital Dividend – the spectrum in the 700 MHz Band that will become available for alternative uses – following the analogue-to-digital television switch-over.
The aim of the study was to determine the optimum use of the 2nd Digital Dividend by estimating the social and economic benefits of using this radio spectrum either for mobile broadband or broadcasting services, taking into consideration future spectrum requirements.
The report focuses on both mobile and broadcasting requirements, as well as assessing the pros and cons of allocating the Digital Dividend to either broadcasting or mobile services.
The methodology deployed for this study consisted of primary and secondary research, including consultation with key public and private sector broadcasting and telecommunication parties in South Africa.
“The Department continues to consult with all the stakeholders to ensure that allocation of radio frequency spectrum is done in a fair and transparent manner for all to benefit,” the DoC said.
Value of the spectrum
The Deloitte report found that the overall value of 700MHz spectrum would be in the region of R3.5 billion, considered over the period 2015 – 2026.
“This is noticeably lower than the value that has been placed on 800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum in South Africa in previous reports, but still represents a significant positive benefit,” the report stated.
According to the report, broadcasters have been provided sufficient, if not ample capacity for the next 5 to 10 years. It recommended that the network operators should get access to 800MHz spectrum band to deliver broadband services.
“700MHz Digital Dividend can and should be released for services other than terrestrial broadcasting services,” it said.
“More specifically, this spectrum can be allocated for IMT services as envisaged within the confines of ITU Resolution 232 (WRC-12) and applied towards the implementation of wireless broadband services.”
The report made the following recommendations:
- VHF band III and UHF band IV be reserved for broadcasters;
- High bandwidth television services viz., Ultra HD and 3D TV be allocated to satellite DTH should a need arise in the short to medium term;
- Icasa to consider allocating a full MUX to each of the broadcasters in the medium to long term with stringent conditions for broadcasters to fulfill as part of the motivation requirements, requesting broadcasters to demonstrate on-going financial viability and agreeing to cede unused spectrum to Icasa;
- Icasa to manage the aggregated MUX capacity on an on-going basis, taking into account active and inactive use of allocated spectrum across the country;
- 700MHz be allocated to IMT with the creation of a contiguous band within the 800MHz First Digital Dividend; and
- MNOs and NOs be licenced to access the 800MHz as soon as this becomes available.
“The implementation roadmap strongly recommends a requirement for policy and regulations to be in place in time before the 2015 ASO,” the report stated.
“It is also critical for the DoC to finalise policy on how the Digital Dividend spectrum will be licenced and for ICASA to set the regulations pertaining to the processes to be followed for the application, award and ongoing management of this spectrum.”