The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has granted mobile operators MTN, Vodacom and Telkom emergency spectrum to deal with an increase in data demand during the coronavirus lockdown.
ICASA said it considered applications for temporary radio frequency spectrum assignments in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2600 MHz and 3500 MHz bands, including the use of television white spaces (TVWS), in an effort to ensure connectivity during the National State of Disaster.
The aim is to ease network congestion, maintain good quality of broadband services for consumers, and enable service providers to lower cost of access.
While the lockdown has been extremely damaging or even fatal to many businesses, the mobile telecom sector has proved resilient and even has benefited to some extent, due of course to the greatly increased demand for mobile services for remote working, personal communication and entertainment to pass the time while in quarantine.
The benefit, though, would remain potential only if networks were not able to meet the data demands in a timely and efficient manner. So the freeing up and allocation of spectrum by national regulatory authorities is key if congestion is to be avoided or even mitigated.
In South Africa, Vodacom for example has recorded a 40 percent surge in data traffic since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in that country three weeks ago. While it is true that some of this growth can be attributed to the fact that Vodacom, MTN and some other operators recently zero-rated a number of websites, including university portals, Vodacom said that working from home and home entertainment drove most of the new demand. The trend may even continue a restrictions are loosened and even after the lockdown ends completely, if usage patterns change due to the change in habits.