The use of “unlicensed spectrum” is probably one of the most misunderstood areas of electronic communications regulation. For one thing it is not the spectrum itself which is unlicensed, but rather that the use of specified radio equipment within these frequency bands is licence exempt. Telkom, for example, holds a licence in the 2.4GHz ISM band which it uses to operate legacy CDMA systems, particularly in rural areas.

The most common bands for licence exempt use are the 2.4 and 5.8GHz ISM and the 5.4GHz HiperLan bands – the last being used in particular by municipalities. The most important regulatory restrictions relate to Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) output levels and the use of Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) protocols.

Use of these bands is unprotected in the sense that ICASA will not protect any unlicensed user from interference-based complaints. This is where there is a role for a self-regulatory body such as the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) to play.

ICASA is revising this regulation and will replace it with a new regulation promulgated under the ECA. To this end they have published a draft regulation and held a work shop – click here for a note on the workshop and a bit of history.

Download the ISM Band regulations (PDF)

Download the Draft Licence Exemption (Frequency) Regulations as amended by General Notice 442 of 2008.