The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) is moving forward in the process that will see mobile operators granted access to the 1800MHz and 3G spectrums. Last week, the regulator held hearings with the country's three cellular operators ­ Vodacom, MTN and Cell C ­ on their applications for access to the spectrums.

ICASA says in terms of Section 48 (2) of the Telecommunications Act 106 of 1996, as amended, this is a consultative process between the regulator and the operators, and as such the hearings were not open to the public.

The hearings follow a ministerial determination on fees regarding access to the 1800MHz and 3G spectrums, and yesterday ICASA listened to proposed amendments to the parties' licences to ensure access to the two spectrums. Communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri originally announced the opening of these two spectrums during her budget speech before Parliament last year.

In return for access to the new spectrums, operators will be expected to supply fourmillion SIM cards over five years to disadvantaged South Africans, while the industry will also provide 250000 free phones and numbers to public emergency services in this time period.

The operators will also have to provide Internet links to computers at schools, and public pay phones in accessible places in rural areas and multipurpose community centres. A spokesman for the regulator said ICASA would now correlate all the information received from the operators before deciding what the next phase of the process would entail.

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