Category Archives: WAPA

Wireless Broadband World Africa 2009

I was a speaker at Wireless Broadband World Africa today at the CTICC. I presented on Industry Self-Regulation, WAPA and the OSA.

I had some good feedback and one delegate commented that he liked my idea that self regulation is like the Wiki approach to regulation. Inclusive, decentralised and demorcratised.. order without leaders.

I found Sadiq Malik's ideas on a Telco 2.0 business model very interesting.


I was also a panellist for two of the discussion sessions. Paris Mashile's (ICASA chair) was on one of these panels. He talked about ICASA's challenges around funding and skills and how industry employs (steals) ICASA people. I suggested he should hire William Stucke (-;

There were a number of positive ideas around spectrum from Paris Mashile's presentation:

  • Efficient use of spectrum, sharing and re-use
  • Use it or lose it policy
  • A spectrum audit is in process and he agreed spectrum assignments should be public knowledge

He suggested that a large chunk of spectrum is assigned for military use and there would have to be a negotiation on freeing up some of that spectrum.

He confirmed that the process for licensing 2.6Ghz and 3.5Ghz spectrum will be formally announced towards the end of the month, but provided these details:

  • This spectrum will be technology neutral.. not just for WiMAX use.
  • ~120Mhz spectrum will be divided into 30Mhz portions (per license).
  • There will be a 30% HDI requirement (not 51% BEE)
  • There will be a "beauty contest" first round selection process, followed by an auction process.

This sounds very much like the initial process for getting Individual EC(N)S licenses. I'd guess at least 20 operators will make it past the beauty contest phase.. which makes the details of the auction very interesting. Will it be an open auction?, how many bidding iterations? etc.

This is going to be an interesting ride.

Joe on ITWeb

I was quoted in an ITWeb article: Small telcos in limbo

Not the best article, imho.

I few comments..

As usual, I can't remember saying the wireless access providers are generally in a state of limo.. they are still deploying networks using licence-exempt spectrum. In the context of their new licences.. I did say I think many of them are still in a state of awe and disbelief after actually getting their new (ECNS) licences. It was an interesting battle.

Most of the independent wireless operators which WAPA represents now have the same licences as Telkom and Neotel.. the only snag is that they don't have access to licenced frequency spectrum and most of them don't have the kind of money needed to build big fibre networks (yet).

I'd say this is a time of strategy and planning. They don't have the option to "go for" shared or dedicated spectrum at this point, not yet. If anybody has created a state of limbo (around spectrum) it's ICASA.

There will be a strong focus on spectrum in 2009 as licenced or lite-licenced spectrum would allow operators to deploy improved wireless networks under their new licences.. and would be a logical next step without the massive capital expenses related to building fibre networks.

The revenue numbers may very well be accurate.. but 60%+ of this income relates to consumer business income which has been under pressure from competing services like ADSL.

Spectrum 2.0

Dominic and I had a very interesting meeting with Steve Song and Andrew Rens from the Shuttleworth Foundation this morning about the idea of open / shared frequency spectrum.

You may remember me writing about Lite Licencing.

A few ideas from our meeting which I think should be more widely distributed:

  • There seems to be a wide acceptance of open spectrum allocation models from global bodies like the ITU, Ofcom and the FCC.
  • We need an independent audit of South Africa's spectrum allocation. Who has what? What is open?
  • Spectrum management should be open and transparent.. it's a national resource. Think mining rights and databases of who may mine where.
  • We talked about the possible negative effects of using an auction process to hand out frequency.
  • I think everybody likes the Lite Licencing idea, but we may want to implement the idea in a bit more simple, pragmatic and "african" way. Related to this was DFS (dynamic frequency selection), being able to identify base stations and avoiding interference. I like the idea of location aware base stations which query some central database for the frequency ranges they are allowed to use per area.
  • The 600-700Mhz TV "white space" is an interesting one. Wide prorogation, maybe best used for voice services. Let's hope we get to use it soon after 2011.
  • Use it or lose it. There should be no such thing as a permanent spectrum assignment.
  • We talked about spectrum trading.. could be nice, but there were a number of concerns about this. Think Enron trading electricity.
  • I like the idea of the "spectrum commons".
  • Is spectrum a scare resource? Some studies show that even in metro areas (UK) only about 14% of available spectrum is used in any given area. Obviously we are not using this resource efficiently enough.
  • We talked about how we can change and improve the state of spectrum policies.. to help our new ECNS licensees, increase competition, improve access and drive down costs. Industry needs to get together, we need some lobbying momentum. Let's get more people interested. Naturally WAPA and the ISPA have been working on this, but a new focus on open spectrum policies would be nice. Expect to see a workshop on the topic soon.

This seems to be a good time to change the way we think about spectrum allocation. We'll have a new DoC minister soon and we have ~200 ECNS licensees needing a solution very soon. A good time for ideas like these to have an impact.

Lite Licencing as a Spectrum Allocation Model

I met Jack Unger at iWeek in September this year. Jack is involved with WISPA.. kinda like the US version of WAPA.

He shared some ideas on how the US independent wireless operators have been working with the FCC (their regulator) to find some middle ground in frequency spectrum allocation.

Something in between the free-for-all ISM model and single/dedicated allocation.. a shared but regulated model.

Frequency spectrum is a finite (scarce) national resource... you can only chop it up and assign so many 20Mhz chunks... well, that's true in the traditional (often static) dedicated allocation model.

This model works if you have 1 or 5 "big" (~monopoly / protected) telecoms providers, but in a deregulated and open telecoms market you need another way of assigning spectrum.. making sure it is used efficiently.. for the common good of the market and citizens.

Enter: Lite Licencing

"Lite Licensing" is a novel and progressive frequency allocation model where network operators (ECNS licensees) would pay a relatively small fee for a nation wide, non-exclusive license. They then pay an additional nominal fee for each base station they deploy. All their stations must be clearly identifiable and in the event these stations cause interference which cannot be mediated by technical means, licensees are required to resolve the dispute between themselves.

With a bit of luck (lobbying, PR, clenching of fists and grinding of teeth) I hope industry bodies like the ISPA and WAPA can work with ICASA to implement the same model in South Africa soon.

Spread the word.

Quick Update

This weeks' update seems to have been delayed.. I blame the awesome weather.

  • Monday, gym, swim, ISPA mancom meeting, watched Perfume.. good movie.
  • Tuesday, gym, swim, uber-juice, Tamboerskloof steps run, beer and pizza at Carlisles in Vredehoek.
  • Wednesday, Lions Head walk with Andy, WAPA admin and PR, eStrategy workshop in Bishopscourt.. which turned out to be a royal waste of time.
  • Thursday, walk above our house up to Military Road, ISPA general meeting, Teraco CPT site visit.. DC1 is starting to look good, January GeekDinner planning at Yum, SA UX meeting at Asoka, drinks at Asoka. Met Tristan from MyVideo.
  • Brandon told me I seem to be a very proud parent, I guess that's true.
  • We named Andy's two new kittens: Walker and RT.. from Talladega Nights, "Ricky Bobby: Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I want to thank you for this wonderful meal, my two beautiful sons, Walker and Texas Ranger" (-;
  • Friday, updated my homepage (front page and history), cocktails on the Camps Bay strip, added my first Wikipedia article about Vendor Neutral Data Centres, braai at home, watched Crank.
  • Fri 21 Nov.. Celebrations! The VANS won. "Many pioneering independent networks are already operating and the high court ruling will allow them to attract investment and expand their networks."
  • Saturday, Mia time, gym, swim, kids party at our place, sundowner drinks and pizza with Cath, Parri and Jess.
  • Sunday, early Clifton 2nd session with Georg and Mia, braai, afternoon nap, Camps Bay.. Primi, Baraza, Karma, Baraza.. to watch jacSharp and Pierre-Estienne play.

I've been invited to the U.S. Bloggers Tour dinner this week. Makes me think people actually read the rants I publish here.

Have a fun week.

Quick Update

The weekly dose of me, me me...

  • Monday, dropped Mia off at school, tea with her mom, since I always drive by the place and wonder what's inside I stopped and visited Lady Chatterley's Chamber on Kloofnek ..most interesting, burger with Georg and Christo at Da Vinci's.. try the Milan burger, watched Saints and Soldiers and The OC.. end of season one, finally.
  • 300th crackbook friend, 300th blog post
  • Figured I need a detox week, this lasted 4 days.
  • Tuesday, Long Street Baths swim with Andy, CLUG talk at UCT, CLUG dinner at Adesso.. to arrange Nov GeekDinner logistics, watched some James Randi youtube about spoon bending.
  • Wednesday, Cape Town's finest taxi service, installed new x350 Extreme switch for The Hub project (new website due soon), Teraco CPT site visit, brunch at Cocoa Wah Wah in Rondebosch, 1km swim, bumped into Lyle at the pool, Amobia Exco meeting at Da Vinci's (again), jacSharp Electro at FTV.
  • Thursday, gym, WAPA committee meeting at my place, drinks at the Radisson for The Training Room Online launch, full moon Lion's Head walk... on my own. I think I need to write a (nasty) blog post about people that say they are going to show up but don't.
  • Friday, killer abs class, made an uber-healthy-juice with my new juicer, emergency party gift shopping at Tinka Tonka Toys in Gardens, they were very helpful, chaired the WAPA AGM at Eikendal and I was elected to the WAPA management committee again. Mia and I attended Belle's 6th birthday party.. island girl theme. Had home made burger's at Will's house.. some Springfield Wild Yeast Chardonnay (must be my fav wine at the moment) and authentic Mexican Mezcal with a worm in the bottle, Mia passed out on the couch and we slept over.
  • Do you ever get the feeling (fear) that you could be missing out on a revolution.. a cool hobby with an interesting evolving history?.. one of those windows in time that people look back on and say.. those were the days. New oceans to navigate.
  • Some days I wonder if maybe I'm just trying to progress (regress?) to a student lifestyle.. maybe I just miss the mountain biking and the crayfish diving.
  • Saturday, Will smoothies, gym, swim.. Mia now goes under the water and doggy paddles, had to drag her away from the pool, Clifton 4th with Mia and Will, perfect night for a braai at our place, this time Will ended up sleeping over.
  • Sunday, early'ish Clifton 2nd session, watched The Big Lebouski again, jacSharp at Karma - Camps Bay.. try Tanqueray and cranberry juice.

Idea of the week: Don't try too hard, often it will come to you.. just need to find the right channel.

Have a fun week.

Holding our breath for an Open Telecoms Market

Remember, remember the 21st of November..

Good news for SA telecoms: on Friday 31 Oct the High Court denied the Minister of Communications leave to appeal a recent judgement that gave all VANS license holders (ISPs) the right to build network infrastructure.

Now, if the Department of Communications could just get out of the way and do the right thing, South Africa will have a very different telecommunications services market after 21 November 2008.

There has been a lot of good press about this. I'll just add a few ideas..

Why is it important that VANS get (I)ECNS licenses? Well it would be pretty cool if smaller and more dynamic businesses could build their own networks to serve the telecommunications needs of their communities. The business case for building infrastructure differs with scale. Maybe it makes sense for us to interconnect 10 farms or support a community driven surveillance system.. now we can.

IECNS licenses allow wireless network operators to apply for frequency spectrum. A new licensing model will give a lot more structure and clarity to the outdoor fixed wireless market. We can start thinking about lightly regulated or shared frequency licensing models. We can share and we can make it work.

IECNS licenses allow us to lay fibre. How? Well we simply inform the municipality that we are going to start digging in 30 days. How cool is that! Start thinking about things like community operated Metro Ethernet networks. We can dig up roads now.

Most importantly.. we'll have to start thinking about telecoms infrastructure in a new way: Yes, we can.

I'm holding my breath. Well, kinda.. Amobia has been thinking this way for a while now.