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REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

  • "Open Spectrum Alliance Launched," MyBroadband, 9 June 2009: "The Open Spectrum Alliance (OSA), a new group working towards greater efficiency in the allocation, assignment and use of radio frequency spectrum in South Africa, will hold its first meeting in Stellenbosch tomorrow. According to the OSA, policy regulating the use of wireless spectrum has not kept pace with the evolution of wireless technology. 'In the same way Internet IP address assignment has evolved to be more efficient, we need a new way of thinking about spectrum assignment models,' the OSA states in its manifesto. The OSA says that access to spectrum in South Africa represents the single biggest obstacle to competitive participation in the telecoms marketplace. To improve the current regime regarding spectrum allocation and usage, the OSA encourages among other things:
    (1) Transparency around the existing use and proposed allocation and assignment of spectrum in South Africa
    (2) Interference free spectrum, efficiency shared to reduce barriers to entry
    (3) Technology neutral spectrum allocation
    (4) Use it or lose it policy
    (5) Innovative spectrum licensing
  • "Opening Spectrum in South Africa," by Steve Song, Many Possibilities blog, 29 September 2008: "It's time to get down to business and start developing a civil society position on spectrum management in South Africa..."
  • "Opening Spectrum in South Africa," powerpoint by Steve Song for the Broadband Summit in Johannesburg, 25 March 2009
  • "Open letter to the Department of Communications," from Henk Kleynhans, chairperson, Wireless Access Providers' Association, 3 November 2010: "...It is clear that South Africa needs to fast track freeing up sub 900 MHz frequencies and make them available as unlicenced spectrum. If government and ICASA want to deliver on their mandates of driving social development through high quality communication and an information orientated society, this is the perfect opportunity..."
  • "Electronic Communications Act, 2005," Government Gazette Staatskoerant, Vol. 490, No. 28743 (18 April 2006) in English. The law came into effect on 19 July 2006. According to paragraph 6, exemptions from licensing may be authorized for:
    "(a) electronic communications services provided on a not-for-profit basis;
    "(b) electronic communications services that are provided by resellers;
    "(c) private electronic communications networks used principally for or integrally related to the internal operations of the network owner...
    "(d) small electronic communications networks such as local area networks;
    "(e) uses of the radio frequency spectrum that were permitted without a licence prior to the coming into force of this Act and uses of the radio frequency spectrum that the Authority finds would not cause harmful interference with radio frequency spectrum licensees such as low power uses; and
    "(f) such other services considered to be exempted, as may be prescribed by the Authority..."
  • "Regulations in respect of Licence Exemptions... in respect of radio frequency spectrum, ECS and/or ECNS," ICASA, published as General Notice 926 in the Government Gazette of 29 July 2008, pages 3-20: "These regulations are applicable to the identified frequency bands. They set out the operational rules..."
  • "Notice of Amendment to General Notice 929 of 29 July 2008," ICASA, published in the Government Gazette of 8 August 2008, pages 2-5. According to Ellipsis, ICASA "acted quickly to amend the recently published ICASA Licence Exempt Frequency Regulations 2008 to correct the oversight that threatened to make the operation of hotspots and wireless LANs illegal without a frequency licence."
  • "Regulations...for Spectrum Re-Allocation to Cater for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems)," ICASA, published as General Notice 713 in the Government Gazette of 5 June 2008, pages 3-8.
  • Low-cost South African airline Mango forced to stop advertising its inflight Wi-Fi because it doesn't work, MyBroadband, 16 November 2013.
  • "Affordable voice and broadband: Wi-Fi providers shake things up," MyBroadband, 22 September 2010: "Most of South Africa's largest broadband providers have established fixed line and mobile networks in most affluent areas in the country, but they are far less likely to invest in low-income and rural areas....Uninet director David Jarvis has previously shown that it is possible to deploy a profitable Wi-Fi network in townships or even squatter camps, and two other Wi-Fi providers are now growing their networks in high density inner city environments and sparsely populated rural areas..."
  • "Aviation, radio community up in arms over airband case," by Estelle Ellis, The Weekend Post, 12 October 2010: "Following the arrest and comprehensive prosecution of a plane spotter in Gauteng, local aviation enthusiasts have been warned that they will need to write an exam and qualify as a radio amateur to legally possess popular airband receivers... Until now nobody has been prosecuted for this offence... The case has caused an uproar countrywide and internationally... Guy Leitch, editor of SA Flyer magazine and a seasoned aviator, said that the South African aviation community was both perplexed and angry about the arrest and subsequent prosecution. One of the issues that was troubling, Leitch said, was that the state seemed to make no distinction between a receiver (where you can only listen to radio traffic) and a transmitter..."
  • "Communities end broadband wait," by Samantha Perry and Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb, 28 May 2007: "Local communities and companies, sick of high prices and low availability of bandwidth, are taking matters into their own hands, installing and operating wireless networks and lawyers say it may well be legal. A quick search of the Web reveals a number of community groups operating in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and even Scarborough. They are seeking to create free mesh networks, or city-wide WLANs, similar to Seattle Wireless, an American non-profit project that sought to develop a free, locally-owned peer-to-peer community wireless network... [According to] Brendan Hughes, of Michalson's ICT attorneys... [unlicensed noncommercial] networks are probably legal... 'Under certain regulated conditions, wireless local area networks operating in the 2.4 - 2.5GHz frequency band have not required a licence in terms of any law as long as they remain within that band. It should also be borne in mind that the right of access to information and the right to freely receive or impart information are both fundamental rights contained in the Constitution...' "
  • "ICASA seeks legal opinion on VANS licences" ITWeb, 8 December 2006: "[The Internet Service Providers Association] is concerned that new licence categories and procedures determined by the EC Act may take up to between 18 and 24 months to be finalised. If the current hold on processing licence applications continues, no new licences will be issued to potential industry players for this entire period... ISPs are not the only institutions that could potentially be caught in regulatory uncertainty as the EC Act is being implemented. ISPA has noted the same difficulties with regard to applications for private telecommunication network (PTN) licences... It has also recently emerged that Telkom refuses to sell its services to unlicensed entities, as it fears it would be in breach of its own licence by doing so."
  • "ICASA, DoC versus the VANS," MyBroadband, 6 August 2008: "Some industry players feel that ICASA's delay in the licence conversion process and allocating spectrum to additional Individual ECNS licensees is forcing companies to start building their own wireless networks in unlicensed frequency bands to serve customers... It has also long been the position of the Wireless Access Providers Associations (WAPA) that all VANS are allowed to self-provide as long as these providers use unlicensed spectrum..."
  • According to ICASA's notice on procedures for obtaining type approval, Government Gazette No. 16820 (15 November 1995) defined South Africa's allocations for license free bands and set maximum power output limits for them.
  • "Notice in terms of section 4B inviting representations with regard to spectrum reallocation to cater for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)," Government Gazette Staatskoerant, Vol. 494, No. 29161 (25 August 2006): announcement of a public consultation on band allocations and site licensing for RFID. No information about the results of this consultation or regulations subsequently adopted (if any).
  • "Black ownership level reduced for spectrum licences," by Thabiso Mochiko, Business Report South Africa, 27 July 2009: "The black ownership requirement for companies seeking access to scarce radio frequency spectrum licences has been reduced from 51 percent to 30 percent. The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has brought its requirement in line with government codes and telecoms sector requirements after objections from the industry. Most companies would have been unlikely to qualify under the 51 percent proposal..."
  • Wireless Access Provider Association - headed by David Jarvis, WAPA's website came online in November 2006.
  • "Number of Wireless ISP subscribers growing," by MyADSL, 22 February 2007: "...WAPA estimates that the rapid growth means that the WISP market countrywide most likely sits somewhere around R 200 Million per annum... These wireless providers typically make use of the unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz ISM bands..."
  • "ICASA guns for unlicensed WISPs," by Damaria Senne, IT Web, 30 August 2007.
  • "Illegals put Internet users at risk," Online Media Community of South Africa, 9 November 2006: ICASA is apparently cracking down on wireless ISPs using the 2.4 GHz band without a Electronic Communications Service license. "This frequency band cannot be used to build and sell services on because it is limited for use in local area networks (LANS) such as office parks or homes," says the article. "Adding to consumers' connectivity concerns is the mistaken belief among some ISPs that VANS licence holders can build their own infrastructure. According to [Antony McKechnie, iBurst's head of product development]: 'An Electronic Communications Service licence (previously a VANS licence) does not extend to the self-provision of infrastructure such as fixed-lines and networks. This is where many wireless ISPs are found to be held in breach of the law. Only certain operators... are licensed to build their own public communications networks...' "
  • "VANS licence applications are law" by Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb, 26 May 2005: "Minister of communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri has signed into law the value-added network service (VANS) licence fee application process.... The regulations... appeared in the Government Gazette dated 20 May and spells out the process that a prospective VANS provider should follow in applying for a licence... Hillel Shrock, Internet Solutions' director of new business, says this is the first phase of the new VANS application procedure... 'The second phase is probably the most important part. There is still a lack of certainty following the liberalisation announcement over just what VANS are licensed to do,' he says..."
  • "The Steady Growth of Municipal Networks in South Africa," Balancing Act News Update, October 2006, based on a report in MyADSL: "The next 18 months will see SA municipalities providing perhaps a more formidable challenge to Telkom by offering cheaper, wireless and, crucially, local telecom services. And it is the Cape tourism mecca of Knysna that is leading its larger urban rivals in the race to provide wireless telecoms and Internet facilities to residents and visitors. Municipal officials are ambitious [despite] Telkom's insistence that the act allows local governments to operate networks only on 'one piece of private land'... Knysna's boldness has since been vindicated, with Johannesburg getting Icasa to rule that a municipal area is 'one piece' of land..."
  • "Knysna WiFi on track" by Martin Czernowalow, ITWeb, 21 October 2005: "The project to make the Knysna municipal area the first African town to become fully WiFi connected is on track, amid objections from Telkom..."
  • Homepage of the City of Tshwane Open Access Network: "The City of Tshwane [Pretoria], in conjunction with Neology, is conducting a proof-of-concept service for city-wide wifi services on the basis of 'Open Access'... The network is currently under construction, and in beta phase, but is fully operational..."
  • Meraka Institute/Community Online Information Networking/Wireless Africa - a Wiki devoted to community wireless in South Africa.
  • "Hotspots the latest thing in internet innovation," by Lesley Stones, IT editor, Business Day, 17 July 2003: "In South Africa, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has called for public comments on the provision of wireless internet access. Comments are due by Monday [21 July 2003], to help define Wi-Fi and its legal connotations, including whether it should be licensed..."
  • "ICASA declares WiFi hotspots legal" by Rodney Weidemann, ITWeb, 17 October 2003. ICASA rejected Telkom's argument that Internet cafes illegally provide public telecommunication services and WLANs should be considered part of the public switched telephone network.
  • "Findings and Conclusions in Terms of Section 27(8)(a) of the Telecommunications Act (No. 103 of 1996) on the Section 27 Enquiry on the Provisioning of Wireless Internet Access using ISM Frequencies," Government Gazette/Staatskoerant Vol. 460, No. 25594, 16 October 2003 (8 pages). The decision on which the above news article is based. If you cannot find it on Icasa's website (which has been stripped of superceded rulings and decisions), you can still find it at IOZ, which maintains an excellent collection of legal and policy documents related to the Internet in South Africa. Summary: because Telkom's license gave it certain monopoly rights, ICASA said local data access services (WLANs and Internet cafes) are only legal within "the border of the customer premises on which he/she/it resides." But they cancelled the rule limiting such services to a single user and specifically allowed the provision of on-premises service to the public on a commercial basis without a telecom license.
  • Archive of IOZ's WiFi Discussion List (only open to subscribers, but the list itself is open so you can easily join).
  • "General Notice 1442: South African Table of Frequency Allocations," Government Gazette, issue number 26584 (15 July 2004), pages 4-145.
  • "Oh frabjous day! The telco Jabberwock is dead!" by Arthur Goldstuck, The Mail and Guardian Online, 29 August 2008: "When Justice Norman Davis ruled in the high court this morning that value-added network services (VANS) must be allowed to provide their own networks - and that the regulator is obliged to grant the appropriate licence to any network that chooses to do so - he heralded the beginning of a truly competitive environment in telecommunications. The court case was brought by Altech Autopage against the telecoms regulator, Icasa, essentially to force Icasa to issue a new category of telecoms licences to anyone who applied... In reality, the case goes back to September 3 2004, when Minister of Communications Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri declared, as part of a determination on amendments to the Telecommunications Act, that VANS would be allowed to self-provide their own network facilities from February 1 2005. Icasa formally endorsed this amendment. Yet, with barely hours to go before the due date, the minister stated that this self-provisioning applied only to the mobile cellular operators and that 'value-added network operators may obtain facilities from any licensed operator as specified in the determinations'. In effect, that had shut the door to open competition, with VANS forced to buy all network services from the same companies that were their biggest competitors. This about-turn, and the restrictive environment it entrenched, became the Jabberwocky monster in the tulgey woods of over-regulation in South Africa... [But in the end] Judge Davis concurred with Altech, in a case that bears testimony to the independence of judges from Cabinet ministers..."
  • "Restricting VoIP and WiFi Costs South Africa Its Position as a Technology Leader in Africa," by bridges.org in collaboration with the East and Southern Africa Centre for International ICT Policy, 25 May 2004.
  • "Charter should promote deregulation" by Paul Vecchiatto, ITWEB, 14 September 2004. Capetown NGOs meet to discuss the draft "Black Empowerment ICT Charter," agree that restrictions on wi-fi are a barrier to empowerment.
  • "ICASA's Interpretation of the Ministerial Determinations for the Telecommunications Legislation," a press release dated 19 November 2004, confirmed that outdoor use of Wi-fi remains illegal.
  • "The day Telkom's monopoly finally died," by Lesley Stones, IT editor, Business Day, 1 February 2005: "For players in the telecommunications sector, February 1 2005 will go down as the day that Telkom's monopoly finally came to an end..."
  • "iBurst Wireless Broadband Rollout in South Africa," xtv, 23 March 2006: "Broadband internet access was merely a pipe dream in South Africa until 2 years ago. Competition has been nonexistant because of a crippling regulatory environment and unwillingness by the incumbent monopoly Telkom to provide any services at affordable rates. iBurst now has over 10,000 subscribers countrywide... [and is adding more] base stations and coverage in the 4 major centers iBurst currently services. The iBurst Wireless Broadband facility operates at up to 1024k/s (1MB/s)... iBurst is now targeting a rollout plan of at least 1 new base station per week, with the whole of Johannesburg to be covered by the end of April/May 2006...."
  • "Surfing simply with the hotshot behind the hotspots" by Dave Marrs, Business Day, 24 November 2009: "...Skyrove enables small businesses such as coffee shops and guesthouses - or entrepreneurs wanting to on-sell wireless internet access - to set up WiFi 'hotspots' with a radius of about 50m, and either hand out vouchers as a service to customers or take a share of the fee that can then be charged for bandwidth. 'We realise that there's nothing we can do about Telkom's monopoly over the last mile of copper,' says [Henk] Kleynhans. 'But we can stake a claim to the last 50m by helping people set up their own hotspots and gain access to the internet wirelessly and cost-effectively.' ...Kleynhans, who is now 31 and recently became a father for the first time, recalls that he wrote the business model for a service that would allow him to bill people for the megabytes they used in a sudden burst of inspiration at 4am on the night before a maths exam. 'I felt that breaking the law was justified under the circumstances,' he says... The first outside investor came on board the following year, which allowed the company to hire a programmer and go to market with the world's first prepaid per-megabyte WiFi billing solution. Skyrove now has more than 500 hotspots in operation around SA, and is adding about 20 new ones to the list each month..."
  • "Still The Right Thing To Do?" by Larry Claasen, Financial Mail, April 2006: "Paying a television licence will still be the 'right thing to do', even if you're watching TV on a newfangled cellphone. That's the view of the SABC, which insists that new technology does not make the concept of licence fees redundant. New technologies will allow cellular phones and other mobile devices to receive broadcast TV signals, making it more difficult for the state-owned public broadcaster to enforce revenue collection. But the SABC insists a licence must be bought for any device capable of receiving a broadcast TV signal. This means that a PC fitted with a TV receiver or tuner card is considered a TV set. Similarly, where a cellphone has been designed to receive broadcasting signals using the new mobile broadcasting standard known as digital video broadcasting handheld (DVB-H), it is also viewed as being a TV set, says Aynon Doyle, acting GM for broadcasting at the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa). Vodacom says that when it introduces a DVB-H service, it will probably include the TV licence in its customers' subscriptions..."
  • "Icasa Appoints New Chairperson" by Edwin Tshivhidzo, BuaNews (Tshwane), 8 July 2005: "The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has named Mr Paris Mashile as its new chairperson. Mr Mashile succeeds Mr Mandla Langa whose contract ended on the 30th of June. Mr Mashile's appointment is with immediate effect and his five-year contract is expected to end in 2010..."

Africa - Regional Overview