14 July 2006








SNO Telecommunications welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act of 2006 (“the draft Act”).  The SNO would welcome the opportunity to make an oral presentation in respect of its written submission to the appropriate parliamentary portfolio committee dealing with this piece of legislation.


1           General Comments


1.1          In its review of the draft Act, the SNO notes that the draft Act grants the Minister of Science and Technology (“the Minister”) broad powers to regulate, amongst other things, radio frequency spectrum that relates to astronomical use.  This issue is of particular concern to the SNO as it would create an inappropriate precedent of granting a Minister control over radio frequency spectrum.  This would prospectively create confusion as to who between the Minister and ICASA is charged with managing radio frequency spectrum that relates to astronomical use. 

1.2          Of equal concern is the possibility that other Ministries may be granted similar powers of control over radio frequency spectrum associated with their portfolios.


2           Specific Comments


2.1          Management Authority – the SNO would like to see the management of astronomy advantage areas is transparent, consultative, nondiscriminatory and comprehensive.

2.2          Short range device – it would be beneficial for planning purposes if the actual kilometer distance can be specified.

2.3          Ad para 4(1)(a) – Providing the draft Act with prevalence over the Telecommunications Act as far as conflicts over radio frequency interference are concerned, will erode the Telecommunications Act’s and accompanying Radio Regulations’ authority as far as management of the radio frequency spectrum is concerned.  The Telecommunications Act and accompanying Radio Regulations contain comprehensive procedures for dealing with and removing radio frequency interference.  For example, the Radio Regulations provide for classifications of users such that a primary user is protected from interference from a secondary user.  Secondary users are not protected from radio frequency interference from primary users.  We have not seen such a level of detail in the draft Act.


Moreover, the radio frequency interference management procedures in the Telecommunications Act and the Radio Regulations align to the International Telecommunications Union, whereas the draft Act does not even contain procedures for dealing with radio frequency interference.

2.4          Ad para 17: - Could co-management of core or central astronomy advantage area include ICASA’s participation to ensure apporopriate radio frequency spectrum management?  ICASA’s participation would ensure that existing radio frequency spectrum management procedures are adhered to and employed as per paragraphs 17(2)(b) and (c).

2.5          Ad para 22 – As per our General Comment above, paragraph 22 of the draft Act grants the Minister power that the Minister does not warrant.  To empower the Minister with control of radio frequency spectrum that relates to astronomy purposes, would create unnecessary bureaucratic confusion to the public, existing telecommunications service licensee and potential investors.


What would be advisable would be for the Minister to have to liaise with ICASA first and for ICASA to do the final approval on protecting the radio frequency spectrum for astronomy observations.  In doing so, the Minister would simply provide ICASA with it radio frequency spectrum protection requirements for the area concerned.


2.6          Ad para22(2)(a) – The Minister should not be given this power.  This role vests with ICASA and should remain as such. 

2.7          Ad para22(3)(a) – The Minister should have to conduct the public participation in terms of the Telecommunications Act or at least to consult with ICASA prior to the notice’s publication.

2.8          Ad para 24(2)(c) – This particular power is quite broad.  The SNO would like to see some form of consultation taking place between the Minister and affected parties in terms of this paragraph.  More importantly, the principle that the Minister, as opposed to ICASA, should have control over the radio frequency spectrum is further reinforced in this paragraph.  The SNO reiterates its view that only ICASA should be vested with management and control of the radio frequency spectrum.


3           Conclusion

3.1          The SNO thanks the Department of Science and Technology for the opportunity to make this written submission and warns that the principles contained in the draft Act should be carefully considered before being implemented.  It would not advance the country’s telecommunications competitiveness by giving the Minister of Science and Technology concurrent and at times, superseding powers over ICASA in relation to the control and management of the radio frequency spectrum.

3.2          The SNO would welcome the opportunity to make oral representations in relation to the draft Act.