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The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is today expected to extend the deadline for subscription broadcasting licence applications to the end of August. This will give interested companies an extra 30 days to polish their applications.

Earlier this year Icasa invited companies to bid for a subscription broadcasting licence to increase consumer choice and end MultiChoice's monopoly. MultiChoice, satellite radio provider WorldSpace and signal distributors such as Orbicom and Sentech were given temporary permission to continue with services but will have to apply for a licence.

Icasa said it was giving companies time to understand the new licensing structure brought by the new Electronic Communications Act (ECA).

Under the ECA, telecommunications and broadcasting licences will be changed to either service or infrastructure.

Commercial broadcasting services, such as free-to-air channel e.tv and other channels of the SABC, will also be classified as individual licences or class licences.

But an industry insider said the main reason for the extension was that Icasa received requests for extensions from different companies.

According to the source, companies that have asked for an extension include Telkom and little-known entities Khetha Media and On Digital.

Telkom is busy with video-on-demand trials with Microsoft and Alcatel. Telkom confirmed that it was preparing the application but would not comment further.

Based on the number of meetings that Icasa had with potential applicants, acting senior manager of broadcasting policy, Pfanani Lishivha, expects fewer than 10 applications.

Telecel, a cellular operator, last week said it would apply for a licence through its subsidiary, Goal Technology Solutions, which plans to offer video-on-demand by using electric power lines to transmit the services. It already offers wireless high-speed internet broadband over power lines.

Analysts have raised their concerns on whether video-on-demand can succeed as a stand-alone service.

Business Report