ICT Authority grants 5G licences to mobile operators

Port Louis: ICT Authority today granted 5G licences to 3 mobile operators. It follows invitations in April 2021 to the three mobile operators to apply for radio spectrum that will enable them to deploy 5G networks. Cellplus Ltd, Emtel Ltd and Mahanagar Telecom Mauritius Limited (MTML) are the three mobile operators braced for deploying 5G services as set out in the terms and conditions of their licences.

The Chairman of the ICT Board, Mr Dick Ng Sui Wa described this development as a very important one for the telecommunications industry, adding “this new technology is not just about higher speeds, as it will also make possible new applications in the areas of Smart home, Internet of Things, wireless health care, smart cities and autonomous vehicles amongst others. Around the world, 5G is looked upon as a foundation for huge benefits to both governments and businesses willing to optimize on the digital ecosystems which such a technology makes possible.” The Authority had released a public consultation regarding the opening of frequency bands for 5G in February of this year. Following the responses received from the Industry, a total of 300 MHz of radio spectrum in the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands were made available by the Regulator. 5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks that promises higher internet download speeds starting with several hundreds of megabits per second and reaching around 10 gigabits per second. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example where connectivity has served to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on some sectors of human activities be it work, education, healthcare and socially connected. 5G brings with it the possibility for fundamental industry change, by enabling a whole new set of services. As at February 2021, according to Connecting Africa, an online community dedicated to the African digital landscape, South Africa and Madagascar had deployed pre-commercial or commercial networks. Several other African countries are still at the trial stage. By making spectrum available, the ICT Authority expects that Mauritius will soon be among the first few countries on the African continent to launch 5G commercially. To achieve the high speeds 5G promises, the spectrum blocks to be allocated per operator are significantly larger than for the previous technology generations. Three blocks of 100 MHz each were made available in the two different frequency bands. Each operator was asked to specify its preferred frequency blocks and at the same time to set out its commitments to network coverage. It is on that basis that the Authority decided which blocks the operators will get. The said regulatory approach led to the operators to disclose to the Regulator their respective timeframes for achieving specific percentages of network coverage for mainland Mauritius as well as outer islands. Upon issue of the licences, operators will take cognizance of the frequency blocks being awarded to them based upon the abovementioned regulatory approach. This approach adopted by the Authority contrasts with traditional spectrum auctioning still being used in most developed countries. Spectrum auctioning, where operators have to bid on licence fees, has often been criticized as detrimental to infrastructure deployment. With the method of award adopted for Mauritius, the Regulator aims to both promote competition and drive investment.

17 June 2021

Link for Public Consultation launched in February 2021: