After several years of delays, cancellations, court cases and the setting of further and further deadlines, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is finally set to auction access to SA’s much-coveted spectrum for mobile broadband services.

Two auctions will be held – one on 8 March and another on 10 March. The second auction is considered the “main” auction.

Here are 4 things you need to know about tomorrow’s ICASA auction:

  • The Opt-In Phase Auction

The first highly-anticipated auction will be held on Tuesday 8 March with every big name telecom in the country lining up to take a seat at the table. For the last several weeks, ICASA has conducted mock auctions and a bidder seminar to ensure that potential participants are comfortable with the bidding process.

According to Tech Central, the first auction will be an “opt-in” phase. This phase will see potential bidders submitting bids to achieve a minimum spectrum portfolio or MSP.

ICASA has explained that only two bidders can win the spectrum to achieve the MSP in the opt-in phase of the auction.

Bidders will be able to submit their respective bids in person between 10 AM and 12 PM tomorrow, 8 March. The round will close early if bids from all qualified bidders are received before the scheduled end of the bidding period.

On 10 March, the second, “main” auction will take place using an online auction platform. Bidding in this auction will take place on business days between 9 AM and 5 PM.

  • Which companies are taking part?

Six of South Africa’s largest licensed telecommunications operators are participating in the entire process. These are: Telkom, Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Rain.

However, during tomorrow’s opt-in phase, only tier 2 operators will be allowed to bid. These exclude tier 1 operators Vodacom and MTN.

  • What are these companies bidding for?

The tier 2 operators tomorrow will be able to bid on spectrum only to ensure that they meet a minimum spectrum portfolio (MSP) of 2×10 Mhz in frequencies below 1 Ghz and 60 Mhz above 1 Ghz.

Smaller bidders such as Telkom, Rain and Liquid will be able to bid on a lower-frequency spectrum, below 1 Ghz. Lower frequency spectrum allows the coverage of larger areas per cell and offers better penetration through walls.

  • The Main Auction

On 10 March 2022 the main auction will begin through an online platform chosen by ICASA.

In this phase unlike the previous one, all 6 bidders will be able to participate. The top telecoms in South Africa will be able to bid for spectrum in the 700 Mhz, 800 Mhz, 2600 Mhz and 3500 Mhz bands.

Assuming all spectrum lots sell, the auction will net a minimum of $522-million (R8-billion) for South Africa’s national fiscus, according to Broad Media.

Following the bidding process, ICASA will announce the winners of the opt-in auction. The commission will also state the amount of spectrum won and the amount the winning bids will need to pay to secure access to the spectrum.


By Luis Monzon
Follow Luis Monzon on Twitter
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