South Africa Said to Sell Online Spectrum After 5-Year Delay

Updated on
  • Regulator said planning to kick-start auction process Friday
  • Ruling ANC has pledged to extend broadband access to all homes

South Africa will start the process of selling broadband spectrum after a delay of about five years, a significant step toward extending high-speed internet across the continent’s most industrialized economy, according to people familiar with the situation.

Telecommunications companies such as Vodafone Group Plc’s local unit and MTN Group Ltd. will be invited to apply for the auction on Friday, said three people, who asked not to be identified as the decision hasn’t yet been made public. The value of the operating frequency hasn’t been determined, the people said.

Wireless operators have been clamoring for more spectrum to expand broadband as stiff competition and tight regulation hampers growth in phone services. South Africa’s governing African National Congress has pledged to extend broadband access to every household by the end of this decade, improving connectivity in one of the world’s stragglers in internet access.

Vodafone’s Vodacom Group Ltd. planned to expand its internet offering with the 7 billion-rand ($489 million) acquisition of Neotel Pty Ltd. from Tata Communications Ltd. of India, yet walked away from the deal in March after two years of regulatory and legal battles. The Johannesburg-based company has since said it’s considering a bid for unprofitable state-owned Internet company Broadband Infraco.

A spokesman for the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, which will lead the process, said he wasn’t immediately available for comment.

(Updates with Vodacom/Neotel in fourth paragraph.)
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