Speech of Mr Dick Ng Sui Wa, Chairman of the ICT Board on the occasion of the granting of 5G licences to mobile operators

Good morning and a very warm Welcome to you!

1. This is a historic day for the telecommunications sector. For today the Authority is granting network spectrum licences to the three mobile operators, namely Cellplus Ltd, Emtel Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Mauritius Limited (MTML) for the deployment of their respective 5G or fifth generation wireless network.

2.  I am delighted to say that Mauritius is among the first four countries in Africa and among the first 80 countries worldwide to be rolling out 5G commercially. Mauritius has always been at the forefront of mobile network deployments in Africa. We are known for being the first market in the African region to launch mobile networks in 1989 and the first to provide 3G service in 2004.

3. Why is today a landmark for the regulator and industry? Because 5G represents a fundamental transformation of the role that mobile technology plays in society. 5G has been designed to support a massive number of connected devices ? the Internet of Things. 5G is expected to connect not only people but also things, transport systems and cities. These technologies are expected to support applications such as smart homes and buildings, smart cities, 3D video work and play in the cloud, remote medical services, virtual and augmented reality as well as massive machine-to-machine communications.

4. The ICT Authority has as one of its objects under Section 16 (e) of the ICT Act 2001 “to encourage the optimum use of information and communication technologies in business, industry and the country at large, the introduction of new technology and the investment in infrastructure and services.”The Authority based itself on this object to define the method to be used for awarding spectrum for 5G. In that respect, we had to be innovative, as allocating spectrum for 5G is a whole new ball game when compared with 2G, 3G and 4G.

5. The challenge for the Authority has been to identify three blocks of 100 Megahertz of spectrum each, to enable all three operators to deploy 5G and therefore create a level playing field in line with its legal mandate. Those three 100 Megahertz blocks were not available in a single frequency band and for the first time, the Authority has had to open two frequency bands concurrently in order to provide sufficient spectrum to all operators. These frequency bands are the 2.6 Gigahertz and the 3.5 Gigahertz bands. The 2.6 Gigahertz band had to be planned anew and the 3.5 Gigahertz band also had to be replanned in order to ensure that adjacent satellite services are not adversely affected by the operation of 5G as was the case is other countries, including our neighbours, Madagascar and Reunion Island.

6. In February 2021, the Authority conducted a public consultation on the technical parameters to be adopted for these two frequency bands in order to ensure co-existence among the users of the bands. Furthermore, the Authority organized, for the first time, a competitive process based on network coverage in order to decide how the three blocks of 100 Megahertz were to be awarded. This was made possible thanks to amendments brought to Section 24 (2) of the ICT Act last year which now allows the Authority to invite applications for licences and to use such competitive process that the Authority deems appropriate.

7. This novel 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.

8. With the awarding process adopted for Mauritius, the ICTA aimed to both promote competition, drive investments, bring about a level playing field and encourage an innovative approach. A robust 5G infrastructure is the foundation for inclusive economic growth and competitiveness.

9. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I am therefore pleased to announce that the first Frequency Block located in the 2.5 Gigahertz band is granted to Emtel Ltd in accordance with its first choice.

The second block located in the lower portion of the 3.5 Gigahertz band is granted to Mahanagar Telephone Mauritius Ltd -MTML in accordance with its second choice and the third block located in the upper portion of the 3.5 Gigahertz band is granted to Cellplus Ltd in accordance with its first choice.

10. All three operators present today will be issued with their respective licences upon payment of licence fees and I thank them for their cooperation.

11. The ICT Authority hopes to see prompt deployment of the respective networks. For it is then that the country may reap the full potential of the benefits of 5G.

12. On behalf of the ICT Board, I wish to thank our responsible Minister, that is, the Honourable Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth for enabling such innovation enshrined in the national policy for a smart island.

5G being a general-purpose technology enabler unlocks the potential of cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing. 5G can serve to democratize ICTs and to help narrow the digital divide bringing access to essential technologies and services.

In the post-Covid world we have witnessed how 5G technology has been optimized by governments and businesses to adopt digital ecosystems at an unprecedented rate to push industrial growth; forge social cohesion and national development.

The ICTA, in its capacity as regulator and the telecommunication operators here today demonstrate how public and private partnerships are essential to shape the pathway for digital transformation based on synergies between the policymaker, the regulator and industry in the era of the Fourth Industrial revolution.

I thank my colleagues on the ICT Board and the ICTA staff for the collaboration in making this moment a reality.

It is my pleasure therefore to extend my best wishes to your organisations for the 5G roll out.

17 June 2021