Weekly digest for 25 June 2021

KEY READING FOR THE WEEK

This week’s main story is about the status of 5G in Africa. While plenty of countries are investigating 5G, only two countries offer fully commercial 5G services on the continent – Kenya and South Africa. In Kenya, 5G is offered based on a 1-year trial license. In South Africa, 5G is offered based on the emergency allocation of spectrum due to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. That allocation is meant to expire later on this year. The next country that is closest to launching 5G services is Mauritius. Mauritius decided to forego an auction and allocated three blocks of 100MHz spectrum in 2600 and 3500MHz frequencies in February this year based on the amount of network coverage that operators would commit to. Official launch of 5G is expected shortly. What this means is that all the countries that have either launched, or are about to launch, 5G on the African continent have bypassed the traditional spectrum auction approach. It is clear that a re-think of the way that spectrum is allocated is urgently needed especially if new business models, innovation and affordability are to be encouraged.

OTHER WEEKLY NEWS FROM AROUND AFRICA

We have a preponderance of news out of Nigeria this week!

  • Nigeria: The government of Nigeria says that Twitter will continue to be banned in the country until it registers a local office and would therefore be subject to local media laws.
  • Nigeria: The NCC is reviewing its 20-year old license structure for telecoms. But, as with all regulatory news in Nigeria, a committee is being formed to complete the review and any action on this file is likely to take years.
  • Nigeria: The NCC is looking to auction 5 blocks of 100MHz spectrum in the 3500MHz band. However, it looks like the NCC will be following the traditional auction approach and allocation will take many months, if not years, to complete.

And elsewhere:

  • Tanzania: Opposition is growing to the Government’s proposal to implement a SIM card tax. At present, it’s not clear how the tax would be implemented nor exactly what the tax is.
  • Africa: there is a boom in investment in the telecom sector, including a US$500 million investment by  United States’ Development Finance Corporation in the new Ethiopian mobile operator managed by Safaricom, Liquid’s recent US$620 million bond issue and US$105 million loan facility to Africell.