The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has called on the public to disregard conspiracy theories linking the deployment of Fifth-Generation (5G) technologies and infrastructure to the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
In a statement issued on Monday, the authority said this narrative should be ignored as it was aimed at bringing instability and fear.
ICASA again debunked the conspiracy theories, which first came to light in April last year.
"The Authority would like to reiterate its position that the development of standards for International Mobile Telecommunication for 2020 (IMT-2020) and beyond (commercially known as 5G), is continuing at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); and that the administration, including ICASA, contribute and participates in these processes," read the statement.
ICASA Chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng said the public should only rely on scientifically-based evidence and refrain from baseless theories.
"Some of the frequencies earmarked and trialled for 5G deployment by industry players were previously assigned to various operators in South Africa – way before the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus in 2020. Such fake theories can only cause despair and unnecessary technophobia among South Africans and must be strongly condemned," said Modimoeng.
The authority said South Africa adheres to the relevant standards prescribed by both the ITU and the World Health Organisation (WHO), with the former’s focus being primarily on the regulation of radio frequency electromagnetic field emissions.
ICASA confirmed that type-approved electronic communications facilities, provided in the country adhere to the prescribed standards and that there is no evidence that they pose any health risks to the country and/or its citizens.
Meanwhile, the authority has welcomed Telkom’s partial withdrawal from a court action the Invitation To Apply ("ITA") for high demand spectrum or International Mobile Telecommunications ("IMT") spectrum as well as the ITA for the Wireless Open Access Network ("WOAN").
In the statement, ICASA informed affected stakeholders that Telkom has decided to withdraw Part A of the court application.
"Part A of Telkom’s application was meant to compel the Authority to inform all parties who may have an interest in applying for spectrum licences through the International Mobile Telecommunications ('Auction ITA') and the WOAN ITA of Telkom's application.
However, Telkom is still proceeding with Part B and Part C of its application.
The ICASA said it remains committed to see this licensing process to its completion for the benefit of all South Africans, in particular, consumers of electronic communication services.
"Our efforts are geared towards licensing the high demand spectrum through an auction by no later than end of March 2021. We have adequately consulted relevant stakeholders and the public throughout this process and cannot do so to a point of regulatory paralysis," said Modimoeng.
He emphasised that South Africans deserve all the benefits of licensing the spectrum, and this includes improved quality of service and experience, as well as the related reduced data and voice costs.