Refarming Frequencies in Rural Areas: A Regulatory Perspective

14 Pages Posted: 21 May 2011

See all articles by Enrico Calandro

Enrico Calandro

Research ICT Africa; University of Cape Town (UCT) - Cybersecurity Capacity Centre for Southern Africa; Graduate School of Business | UCT

Date Written: May 19, 2011


This paper seeks to assess radio-spectrum refarming in selected African countries. It provides an overview of the debate around spectrum refarming and it presents case studies that offer insights into the African context. This discussion identifies regulatory constrains hindering an optimal usage of premium frequencies and provides policy and regulatory recommendations on how to facilitate spectrum refarming.

Findings show that the analysed African regulatory environments have implemented a technology-neutral licensing regime to enhance competition. Although this regulatory intervention opened up the market by enhancing market opportunities and granting additional licenses, some of the new licensees cannot begin operations because of an artificially created scarcity of spectrum. Further, new licensing frameworks have created a competitive advantage for those operators already holding premium frequencies, as they can refarm assigned spectrum bands positioning themselves as both voice and data service providers.

In addition, due to regulatory delays in liberalising and refarming frequencies suitable for wireless broadband roll-out such as 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz, incumbent operators are merging with smaller telcos, in order to access additional spectrum for the provision of wireless broadband services. This is leading to a spectrum hoarding.

Keywords: Spectrum refarming, wireless broadband, regulation

JEL Classification: K23, L52

Suggested Citation

Calandro, Enrico and Calandro, Enrico, Refarming Frequencies in Rural Areas: A Regulatory Perspective (May 19, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Enrico Calandro (Contact Author)

Research ICT Africa ( email )

414 The Studios, Old Castle Brewery
6 Beach Road
Cape Town, 7925
South Africa


University of Cape Town (UCT) - Cybersecurity Capacity Centre for Southern Africa ( email )

University of Cape Town
Cape Town, Western Cape
South Africa


Graduate School of Business | UCT ( email )

Cape Town
South Africa

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