The Top 6 Regulatory Opportunities

Mon, 23/08/2021 - 13:48

We urgently need your feedback on Wi-Fi 6E regulatory so please check out that section if it’s a spectrum band that’s on your radar.

Expect high-demand spectrum issue to go to court

As of the regulatory briefing on 16 August 2021 there was a draft settlement order being circulated by the parties involved. It followed pressure by the presidency to have Telkom, MTN, and Vodacom settle their disputes so that the high-demand spectrum auction can take place. It was meant to have taken place in March 2021, but Telkom obtained an interdict to halt the process. MTN then launched an application, and Vodacom thereafter launched a counter application.

Dominic Cull, of Ellipsis, which is the regulatory advisor to WAPA, believes the settlement will be unsuccessful, instead expecting the matter to go to court. If that happens, it is expected to take place in September 2021, when the courts will hear a review of the Telkom application for a declaration that ICASA’s Invitation to Apply published in November 2020 is unlawful and must be set aside.

Cull, who has advised the industry for 18 years on the commercial and regulatory aspects of technology, broadcasting, and electronic communications, offered an opinion that Treasury would appreciate the resultant fees from a spectrum auction, hence government’s keen support for rapid resolution.

ICASA’s 5G roadmap

ICASA has published a useful document on 5G. It’s an annual report that reveals the extent of deployments for 5G and giving an idea of where ICASA is going in terms of spectrum planning for future 5G services in South Africa. You can download the PDF from the Ellipsis website:

We need your help for Wi-Fi 6E

We want to engage the regulator on Wi-Fi 6E to open the 6GHz range on a licence-exempt basis, but we need to know what your interest levels are to support our case.

There is potentially 1200MHz of spectrum available between 5.9 and 7.1GHz. The FCC has already issued a directive to open this up in the US and other jurisdictions have followed suit.

There’s a view that the regulator focuses on the “usual big guys”, being Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, perhaps also Rain, Liquid and one or two others. With your feedback we can ensure that we establish our voice, and we have Dominic Cull from Ellipsis available to represent our interests. He’s proven invaluable in the past when it comes to making our voice heard in ways that positively influence regulatory developments.

We need two things from members:

  1. To gauge your interest – does Wi-Fi 6E spectrum interest you? Yes or no.

  2. What benefits do you think you can gain? We are accumulating a list and we also need facts and figures to strengthen our case.

We have already circulated a census from the WAPA Secretariat, and we want you to inform us via that census, please.

Mobile broadband reseller issues

We previously raised an issue with ICASA and the Competition Commission regarding the price of wholesale mobile broadband resale prices. It’s alleged that MTN and Vodacom have offered some members wholesales mobile broadband prices that are higher than what they themselves take to market at retail (if any kind of wholesale deal is available at all).

The draft Mobile Broadband Services Regulations 2021 have subsequently been established that requires MTN and Vodacom to lodge per gig wholesale and retail figures with ICASA for the preceding quarter. Should wholesale prices exceed retail, MTN and Vodacom must offer a reasonable explanation or potentially be prosecuted under the Competition Act.

Hearings took place on 12 and 13 August and we expect finalisation within the next two months. We are hopeful the effect will be changed behaviour from the dominant networks and the kinds of deals they make available to our members.

ICASA B-BBEE requirements

We are reliably informed that the ISPA (Internet Service Provider’s Association) has raised a concern regarding the ownership and control for transformation and the application of the B-BBEE sector codes. They are not concerned with the ultimate targets but with the timing around interim targets.

They will express the feeling that there is not enough time for companies to achieve the requisite transformation. For example, a company that may currently have no certification level may struggle to achieve Level 7 by April 2022.

We expect ISPA to engage with ICASA during August 2021 on that narrow issue. WAPA will assess the regulator’s attitude to that process and assess next steps for our organisation (i.e. whether we want to get involved). Please contact Dominic Cull or the WAPA Secretariat if you face challenges around the timing of required transformation progress.


The freezing of AFRINIC’s bank accounts has highlighted a risk for our industry and our members. We may need to offer support for the organisation in future. Currently, it has extended a plea for help to raise funds so that it may continue operating.

AFRINIC is responsible for assigning all IPV4 and IPV6 and other critical resources for ISPs. As part of normal operations in the past, the organisation issued a block of these addresses to a company called Cloud Innovation. However, Cloud Innovation is alleged to have used the majority of those addresses to serve the Asian market rather than the African market, which AFRINIC deemed non-compliant with the terms of the assignment, and subsequently sought to terminate Cloud Innovation’s membership to reclaim the IPV4 addresses. Cloud Innovation made a counter claim in Mauritius seeking relief from what it calls an unlawful act that will severely impede its business. The Mauritius court issued a directive that allowed Cloud Innovation to freeze AFRINIC’s bank accounts.

We don’t know how long AFRINIC’s bank accounts will be frozen and we are not convinced it will be able to secure alternative funding, although in communications with members AFRINIC has stressed that there is no immediate cause for concern.

The situation is unstable and represents a clear risk to our members. However, the global registry system allows other Regional Internet Registry organisations (RIRs) to assist AFRINIC. That said, it is concerning that such a critical body is open to this sort of instability, not only affecting service providers in South Africa, but also many corporates and enterprises in the country too.

The issue has been taken up with the banks and the new Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies.