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07 Apr 2020
BY Wilmari Strachan

South Africa: ICASA Coronavirus (COVID-19) National State of Disaster Regulations

On 6 April 2020, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (“ICASA”) published the Information and Communications Technology (“ICT”) COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations (the "Regulations").

 

The stated purpose of the Regulations is to prescribe the minimum standards to which all licensee (electronic communication services and broadcasting services) must adhere for the duration of the National State of Disaster.

 

The Regulations will come into force on 6 April 2020 and endure until termination of the National State of Disaster. 

 

We provide a summary of the Regulations below.


Applicable to all licensees:

The Regulations prescribe the following minimum standards which will apply for the subsistence of the National State of Disaster:

  • complaints resolution: licensees are exempt from the responsibility to resolve complaints received until termination of the National State of Disaster, however, licensees must ensure that all complaints received by them are resolved within a reasonable period of time from the date of notification thereof. The Regulations do not provide any guidance on what would be considered a reasonable period of time.
  • tariffs and fees:
    • any tariffs, subject to approval or notification in terms of applicable existing regulations, may be lodged with  ICASA one day prior to the launch or commencement thereof (as appose to the normal seven days’ notice). 
    • In addition, any reduced prices associated with a service in terms of the Electronic Communications Act that are intended to apply only for the duration of the National State of Disaster, may be lodged with ICASA one day prior to their operation or commencement. 
    • All lodgements made in this regard will be deemed to constitute adequate notification. 
    • Finally, any radio frequency spectrum licence renewal fees that became due and payable on 31 March 2020, shall only become due and payable on 30 June 2020.
  • submission of applications: the requirement for licensee and/or applicants to submit hardcopies of applications for licences, authorisation and/or certificates is suspended. This suspension will automatically cease upon the expiry of 14 days after the National State of Disaster is terminated.

Broadcasting

  • Sound and television broadcasting performance period: the performance period for both sound and television broadcasting will run from 07h00 to 21h00. This adjustment of the performance period will cease upon the expiry of 72 hours after the National State of Disaster has been terminated.
  • Programme syndication: programme syndication must not exceed 45% of a broadcasting service licensee’s programming per week. This adjustment will cease upon expiry of a period of seven days after the National State of Disaster is terminated. A person that contravenes this provision is liable to a fine not less than ZAR100 000 for each day that the contravention occurs.
  • Quarterly submission of programming logs and recordings: the requirement for licensees to submit programming logs and recordings to  ICASA is suspended. However, the requisite programming logs should be retained for submission at ICASA’s request. This suspension will cease upon the expiry of 14 days after the National State of Disaster is terminated.
  • Submission of applications by subscription broadcasting licensees: those subscription broadcasting licensees that need to apply for authorisation of channels may submit their request for such authorisation not later than four days prior to the intended date of launch.
  • Television broadcasting services to persons with disabilities:
    • television broadcasting services licensees, excluding community television broadcasting service licensees, must ensure that they use sign language interpretation in at least 50% of news broadcasts between 07h00 to 10h00 and 18h00 to 21h00 on a weekly basis. 
    • Furthermore, television broadcasting services licensees, excluding community television broadcasting service licensees, must for the duration of the National State of Disaster ensure that broadcast coverage of all media briefings by the National Command Council includes a sign language interpreter. 
    • These aforementioned obligations must be implemented within three days after the publication of these Regulations (i.e. 9 April 2020) and will automatically cease three days after the termination of the National State of Disaster.
    • A person that contravenes these provision is liable to a fine not less than ZAR100 000 for each day that the contravention occurs.

Telecoms

  • Deployment of electronic communication services:
    • licensees must notify ICASA (insofar as required) regarding new installations of electronic communications facilities on their networks within seven days of the installation. A notification must include: 
      1. a high-level network topology depicting the location of the new electronic communications facilities; 
      2. services intended to be provided on the newly deployed electronic communications facilities; 
      3. a list of sites where the electronic communications facilities are deployed (including applicable technical parameters such as site GPS coordinates, radio frequency channels and technology deployed); 
      4. capacity constraints of the current electronic communications facilities; 
      5. the coverage footprint of the current and new electronic communications facilities; 
      6. interference mitigation measure where applicable; and 
      7. infrastructure sharing and capacity sharing plans. 
    • The Authority will maintain a register of all new electronic communications facilities deployed during the period of the National State of Disaster.
  • Type Approval:
    • a Type Approval application for any electronic communications service facilities and equipment that is intended to be used for the purpose of bringing relief or assistance in respect of the National State of Disaster must be accompanied by the following documentation: 
      1. a detailed submission as to how the equipment will be utilised for the purpose of bringing relief; 
      2. a declaration of conformity from an Accredited Test Laboratory confirming compliance with the applicable standard in the Technical Regulations; 
      3. documentary proof of compliance from a Notified Body or Certification Body within ITU Region 1; 
      4. photographs of the equipment, installation and user manual; 
      5. a functional description of the equipment; and 
      6. a schematic diagram and printed circuit board layout. 
    • No fees will be payable in respect of any such Type Approval application. 
    • Applications lodged in this regard must be submitted to the following email address: covidata@icasa.org.za
    • In the event that the equipment already appears on ICASA’s existing Type Approval register, an applicant must submit the following documentation in order to confirm that the equipment applied for is identical to that which is already type approved: 
      1. a letter confirming that the equipment is identical to the equipment that has already been Type Approved; 
      2. photographs of the equipment, installation and user manual; 
      3. a functional description of the equipment; and 
      4. a schematic diagram and printed circuit board layout.
    • The Authority may still request the applicant to submit further documents.
    • All applications submitted will be processed by  ICASA within 4 days of receipt of a complete application.
    • If the application is successful ICASA will register the device in the automatic type approval register. Should an application be unsuccessful, ICASA will issue written correspondence containing reasons for the rejection. 
  • Temporary assignment of RFS
    • Licensees may apply to ICASA to dispense with the prescribed licensing procedures for the licensing of Radio Frequency Spectrum (“RFS”), including high demand spectrum in order to deal with the anticipated rise in demand for data services.
    • The following ITM band shall be made available for temporary assignment: 700MHz, 800MHz, 2300MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz.
    • Any prescribed fees that would have applied to the bands identified above, is waived.
    • The RFS licenses temporarily assigned pursuant to the Regulations shall be revoked upon the expire of three months of termination of the National State of Disaster. A person that contravenes this provision is liable to a fine not less than ZAR100 000 for each day that the contravention occurs. 
    • No RFS licenses assigned pursuant to the Regulations shall be valid after 30 November 2020.
    • Applications must be lodged by no later than 16:00 on 9 April 2020 to COVIDATA@icasa.org.za.
    • Applications shall be processed by the ICASA within four days of receipt of complete application.
    • RFS sharing is allowed to alleviate challenges of network capacity. However all spectrum sharing agreements must be submitted to ICASA for approval. A person that contravenes this provision is liable to a fine not less than R100,000 for each day that the contravention occurs.
  • Obligations relating to IMT RFS licensees
    • All ECS and ECNS licensees that have access to IMT RFS must send to their subscribers by SMS, free of charge:
      • at least two public announcements per day regarding the prevention and management of COVID-19; and
      • notifications of all announcements by the Minister of Health of the Presidency.
    • ICASA shall determine the number of district virtual classroom platforms (to support virtual teaching) that shall be connected by IECNS licensees with access to IMT RFS, during the National State of Disaster.

Licensees must zero rate all COVID-19 sites as identified from time to time by the Department of Health.

Wilmari Strachan 
Technology, Media and Telecommunications | Director 
wstrachan@ENSafrica.com 
+27 82 926 8751

COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. The disease has since been reported in over 190 countries.

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