The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has successfully concluded the long-delayed mobile spectrum auction. The bidders Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom and Vodacom offered just under ZAR 14.5 billion in total to acquire airwaves to help build out their 4G and 5G networks. The revenue collected from this auction will go to the national treasury. 

This is the total amount generated from the Opt-In phase auction, which took place on 8 March, and the main auction stage, which commenced on 10 March and concluded 17 March. There was one unsold spectrum lot of 2x10MHz in the 800 MHz band, which will still be licensed by Icasa in future. The next stage in the auction process will be the assignment round, on 22 March, to determine the actual spectrum ranges to be assigned for all the lots bought in the various bands.

First permanent spectrum release in 17 years

MTN said that the ZAR 5.2 billion price it bid compares favourably with global benchmark averages for spectrum in similar auctions. In the first time in seventeen years that spectrum has been released on a permanent basis in South Africa, MTN increased its total permanent spectrum holdings from 76MHz to 176MHz.

The spectrum has been allotted for a twenty-year period and on a technology-neutral basis. MTN SA said it would use the spectrum to enhance 4G and 5G connectivity and the capacity of its network, while also expanding rural, peri-urban, and urban network coverage. 

MTN secured 2×10 MHz in the 800 MHz band for ZAR 2.93 billion, 40 MHz of 2,600 MHz for ZAR 1.09 billion and 40 MHz of 3,500 MHz for ZAR 1.13 billion.

Vodacom will pay ZAR 5.38 billion for 2×10 MHz in the 700 MHz band, 80 MHz in the 2,600 MHz band and 10 MHz in the 3,500 MHz band. The operator said it was pleased with the outcome, “although the spectrum auction pricing was high”. 

The operator plans to deploy the new frequencies immediately to expand 4G and 5G capacity and improve the quality of services. Payment for the new licences is due within 30 working days. 

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