The lack of spectrum has hampered the rapid deployment of faster wireless network infrastructure in SA. Picture: REUTERS

According to the Global System for Mobile communication Association (GSMA)‚ spectrum relates to the radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry and other sectors for communication over the airwaves.

Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) councilor Paris Mashile told TimesLIVE at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Telecom 2018 conference on Tuesday that the limited supply of radio frequency spectrum has pushed up prices.

"If you look at other countries, such as Nigeria and Tanzania‚ where spectrum has been released‚ it is copious and‚ therefore‚ because of huge supply‚ the price comes down. But, as you know‚ in SA we have had challenges. People can argue that the cost in those countries is cheaper but that is because those people have released [more spectrum]‚ so prices are down‚" he said.

For years‚ network operators in SA have said that the lack of spectrum has hindered their ability to roll out services and reduce the cost to communicate. The hold on releasing spectrum is largely due to Icasa and the government disagreeing on the methods to allocate it.

But there is some hope of a resolution. At the opening ceremony of the UN's flagship event in Durban on Monday‚ President Cyril Ramaphosa told more than 2‚000 delegates from more than 91 countries that the government had recently decided to accelerate the licensing of the spectrum in the 2.6GHz‚ 700MHz and 800MHz bands. This to hasten the growth of mobile communications.

Meanwhile‚ a report released at the conference suggests that when network operators pay high prices for spectrum‚ consumers pay more for mobile services. According to the report by GSMA Intelligence‚ between 2010 and 2017 the final spectrum prices in developing countries were‚ on average‚ more than three times those in developed countries once differences in incomes were taken into account. SA as not included in the research.

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