Thinking about starting your own Internet Service Provider?

Here is some useful information regarding licensing requirements in South Africa.

At the outset, we need to highlight that telecoms law is a complex area of law and that we are by no means experts in the field. This article will only highlight some of the key elements with regards to the regulations and process for consideration when starting up a WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) in South Africa.

Legal Requirements and Industry Regulation

The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is responsible for regulating the Communication industry in South Africa. A licence is required whenever communications are carried from one point to another. Also, if you want to deploy and operate a physical network, whether the network infrastructure consists of radio equipment for running a wireless network, fibre optic cables, copper-based lines or switches, you are required to obtain a licence through ICASA.

Why are there licencing requirements?

The South African Government imposes licencing requirements to ensure that:

  • Frequency can be efficiently allocated and coordinated
  • Services can be provided to under-serviced areas
  • The market and competition is regulated
  • Consumers are protected in their dealings with service providers

There are 2 main categories of licences:

1.) Electronic Communications Service (ECS) licence:
Internet Service Providers and even VoIP providers which might own some of their own hardware, but which mainly make use of and rely on another company’s network to provide their services, only require an ECS licence. This licence is typically held by an ISP which does not operate its own network.

2.) Electronic Communications Network Service (ECNS) licences:
With this licence you may roll out and operate a physical network. This network can be made up of any technology you choose: radio equipment (for a wireless network), copper cabling, fibre optic cabling etc.

The ECNS once again breaks into two subcategories based on geographical coverage:
2.1) C-ECNS (Class Electronic Communications Network Service licence) This is the form of licence required by operators wanting to set up their own network focusing on a smaller area, district or local municipality.

2.2) I-ECNS (Independent Electronic Communications Network Service licence) This licence allows the holder to roll out and operate an electronic communications network nationwide or across a province.

In order to start building your communications infrastructure and selling bandwidth you will need to obtain the relevant licences as defined and required by ICASA. Both the Individual ECNS and ECS licences are issued for an initial term of 20 years.

Force Telecoms not only provides wireless and fibre solutions to homes and business but also hosting and bulk data sales.

Contact one of our friendly sales team members for more info.


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