S.Africa's mobile operators granted emergency lockdown spectrum to meet data demand

by Reuters
Friday, 17 April 2020 09:28 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, April 17 (Reuters) - South Africa's MTN , Vodacom and Telkom have been granted additional emergency spectrum to deal with a spike in data demand during the coronavirus outbreak, the country's telecoms regulator said on Friday.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said earlier this month it would release the emergency spectrum and invited applications from telecoms firms. Other companies to win additional spectrum included mobile operator Rain Networks and infrastructure provider Liquid Telecoms.

The regulator said all successful licensees must support and create virtual teaching and remote classrooms and should not charge for use of any coronavirus-related websites identified by the Department of Health.

"The Authority exercised extreme care in the assignment of this temporary spectrum [which is] aimed at alleviating network challenges, easing congestion and ensuring good quality of service for consumers," ICASA said in a statement.

The temporary release of high demand spectrum will last for the duration of a national state of disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the regulator previously said. South Africa entered a national lockdown on March 27 which is currently due to last until the end of April.

Vodacom said on Thursday it would spend around $27 million over the next two months to bolster network capacity as traffic surges on its mobile and fixed networks during the lockdown.

MTN, Vodacom and Telkom did not immediately respond to emails requests for comment. (Reporting by Emma Rumney; Additional reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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