Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Liquid Telecom is in talks with other network operators about making its idle spectrum, or radio waves, available to them, says the company’s new SA CEO, Reshaad Sha.

Mobile operators say they are starved of spectrum, partly because of the government’s slow shift from analogue to digital broadcasting. This makes it more expensive for them to roll out network services.

Liquid Telecom, a subsidiary of Econet Global, is SA’s second-largest fibre operator, behind Telkom. It also holds spectrum in the 850MHz, 1.8GHz and 3.5GHz bands, valuable assets, of which it currently does not make full use of.

"We’re exploring partnership models that will allow us to increase our level of monetisation of those spectrum assets that we have," said Sha, who joined Liquid Telecom in June from Remgro’s Dark Fibre Africa business.

"We’d work with other telcos in the market that also have a need to utilise some of this spectrum to deliver services."

"Multiple models" are being considered with the aim of allowing the company to "increase the utilisation level" of its assets.

Any agreements would comply with SA’s spectrum regulations, which state that radio waves cannot be sold, Sha said.

Spectrum sharing is relatively common in SA. Cell C, for instance, has roamed on Vodacom’s network for years. It will shift over to MTN’s network in coming months.

Sha said he wants Liquid Telecom to collaborate more with peers, partly in an effort to curb the duplication of infrastructure. "If there’s a way to not duplicate services, and for us to partner and use that capital where there isn’t anything, that’s the approach we’ll take … to get better utilisation of capital."

Liquid Telecom aims to grow its market share in the small business, enterprise, government and wholesale sectors, and will consider acquisitions in those segments, he said.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za