Dr Andrew Barendse Mr Johan Smit

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Public hearings on the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Bill [B17-2007] (Notice 631 of 2007, GG 29897) Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology 1 August 2007


  • SA telecom sector undergoing period of rapid change in terms of:

    • Licence conversion process
    • Market reviews
    • Africa’s satellite, terrestrial and undersea connectivity
  • AGA bill addresses many issues which is extremely complex and could fundamentally alter the use of radio frequency in South Africa

Background – importance of radio astronomy

  • Telkom acknowledge that:

    • SA have areas very suitable for astronomy, including radio astronomy
    • There are unique opportunities that projects, such as SKA and MeerKAT, will bring to SA
    • Radio astronomy sites must be protected against radio frequency interference
    • Very stringent levels of protection is required for radio astronomy sites

The bigger picture – many stakeholders

History of AGA Bill – Telkom’s involvement

  • Telkom consulted during initial Northern Cape frequency investigations for SKA site – 2003/2004

  • Draft 5 of the Bill (13 April 2006)

    • Received via the SKA Project office – 1 June ‘06
    • Submission made – 23 June ‘06
    • Telkom expressed concerns on certain matters
    • Many of Telkom’s inputs accepted
  • AGA Bill (25 May 2007):

    • Inputs requested by DST - 25 May ’07
    • Submission made - 4 June ’07
    • Inputs requested by Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, submission 29 June ’07
    • Oral hearings – 31 July to 1 Aug ’07
    • Future actions?

Summary of Telkom’s key arguments

  • Further consultations:

    • Declaration and designation of astronomy areas and activities
    • Prior to making regulations
    • Include all relevant stakeholders
  • Undertaking of regulatory impact analysis on the use of radio spectrum:

    • Operational implications on telecom operators
    • Financial compensation where necessary
  • Clarify definitions:

    • Astronomy devices, astronomy advantage areas, activity, material financial implication
  • Consistency with other regulations:


  • International management of radio astronomy

  • International recognition of SKA

  • National coordination of SKA

  • Why is Telkom concerned?

  • Conclusions and recommendations

SKA - international recognition

  • Radio astronomy is one of many ITU defined services

  • Frequency spectrum is allocated to various services; either exclusively or on a shared basis

  • International recognition for stations is given through notification to ITU (MIFR)

  • If outside ITU allocations, notification is for information only - non conformity assignment

  • Non conformity assignment operate on “non–interference–non–protection basis”

    • Will apply to SKA w.r.t international recognition
    • SKA receive only, cannot cause interference

SKA – national coordination

  • SA has sovereign right w.r.t the use of the radio frequency spectrum

  • Sharing between radio astronomy and other services can generally be managed

  • Radio astronomy services allocated internationally accepted bands in SA and protected through SATFA

  • Frequency bands are shared between services:

Telkom concerns – general SKA specifics

  • Frequency of operation

    • 70 MHz to 25 GHz, going far beyond standard radio astronomy allocations, into communications allocations
      • Not appropriate, should be applied with discretion
  • Sensitivity of SKA

    • 50 to 100 times more sensitive than existing astronomy devices
      • Mitigation techniques should be applied by SKA to share coordination burden
  • Size of SKA (area)

    • Many antenna over very large area

Astronomy Advantage Areas - example

Telkom concerns – AGA specific issues

  • Potential conflicts between AGA and ECA

    • Objectives (use of radio frequencies)
    • AGA prevail in cases of conflict
    • Rights given to Telkom nullified by AGA
      • Telkom also have obligations to deliver services
  • New spectrum management powers

    • Minister may declare/designate any area
    • Minister may prescribe regulations to managed spectrum (S.50)
    • Management authority – vested interest
      • Independent body to managed spectrum (ICASA)

Telkom concerns – AGA specific issues (2)

  • Protection of astronomy observations (S.22)

    • Prohibit or restrict frequency use in core and central areas
    • Conversion of analogue to digital transmissions
    • Migration or using alternative technologies
      • Compensation will be required to implement
      • Implementation not always practical or possible, expensive to implement
  • Declared activities in core and central areas to cease (S. 23)

    • Existing and new systems
      • Compensation to replace existing systems
      • Restrictions in service delivery
  • Minister may prescribe standards throughout the Republic to control and minimise interference (S.37)

Telkom concerns – coordinated area

  • Identification of activities in coordinated area (S.24)

    • Construction, expansion or operations of “fixed radio frequency interference source”
    • Other activities capable of causing radio frequency interference
    • Review existing identified activities (S.27)
  • Authorisation to undertake identified activity (S.25)

    • Minister may prescribe standards and or conditions to undertake identified activities
    • Request for permission to undertake identified activities:
      • Authority has 60 + 60 days to response to notification
      • May refuse or grant application
      • Request an impact assessment report
        • Person to be approved by authority, at own expense
  • Coordination area should remain under ICASA management

  • Size of coordination area should be limited

  • Time frames should be shortened (e.g. 30 days)


  • This Act, when acceded to and implemented as is, has the potential to create a win-lose situation in astronomy areas:

    • win for radio astronomy and science and
    • lose for the communications public
  • Ample opportunity for consultation in draft Bill, however, Minister of Science and Technology will have almost unrestricted power to decide on all radio and spectrum matters within the three areas and beyond

  • Whereas core and central area interference may be manageable at a cost, Telkom is very concerned about the restrictions within the coordinated area

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