Instead of taking away oversight and management of SA’s radio frequency spectrum from the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) and centralising it in the office of the minister of communications, government should be trying to assist the authority to better perform its tasks.
That’s the view of Alison Gillwald, executive director of research at ICT Africa and adjunct professor at the University of Cape Town’s GSB Infrastructure Reform and Regulation Programme. She was reacting to planned amendments to the 2005 Electronic Communications Act, which would take away control over spectrum from Icasa and hand it to the communications minister.
Gillwald says telecommunications reform worldwide in the past two decades has generally resulted in management of spectrum being delegated to regulators.
“Generally, where ministries — such as those in Canada and India — retain management functions, these are very often long-standing arrangements and they have a sizeable staff able to undertake this increasingly significant function.”
She says those countries where powers are delegated to regulatory agencies or, in some instances, dedicated agencies, tend to have undertaken more extensive reforms, have more competitive markets and acknowledge the need for a swift response to rapidly changing technology.
“Like many other areas of regulatory reform, the purpose for the delegation of powers in relation to spectrum reflects an acknowledgment of the need for the government as policy maker to be arm’s length from the assignment of spectrum to individual players, particularly if it continues to have interests in the sector.”