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Project: Digitization of the National Radio Frequency Plan 2021 for ICASA

First of its kind - Radio Telecommunication Services (Pty) Ltd (RTS), an associated company of LS of South Africa Radio Communications Services (Pty) Ltd (LSofSA), has developed and launched a digital version of the NRFP (National Radio Frequency Plan) – 2021, as gazetted on 25 March 2022.

The general idea of the project is to develop a user-friendly web interface hosted on the ICASA and RTS/LSofSA websites which can be used to view a digital version of the NRFP-2021. The interface allows any user to run various types of filters to be able to view required extractions from the NRFP-2021. The interface also includes all abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, definitions, references, articles, National Footnotes and ITU Footnotes that is referenced within the original document. The layout of the NRFP-2021 is a replica of the NRFP-2021 gazetted version mainly to cancel out any confusion on how to read the document.

The development process was based on the SDLC (Software development life cycle), which is an industry standard process to design, develop and test software of high quality.

The following process was followed to development and implementation the web-based NRFP-21:

  1. The MS Word version of the Table of Frequency Allocations was converted into a tabular structure and copied to MS Excel where a basic AI, comprising of specific read rules on how the NRFP is structured, translates the NRFP into a complex JSON data structure to be rebuilt on a webpage.
  2. There are several challenges when digitizing the NRFP but the biggest hurdle is probably the step from MS Word to MS Excel. Double space characters, font issues, missing punctuation, and missing reference subscript text is just a few of the issues faced. Issues, such as the bullet point characters disappearing is something to lookout for.
  3. Footnotes for bands and assignments within the NRFP require extra attention especially with the current format (2021). Bands have footnotes, which apply to all allocations in that band, and some allocations have their own footnotes which only apply to them. The NRFP, in some areas, does not have a clear demarcation for distinguishing between the two. This means that if an allocation has enough footnotes to reach the end of the column (some allocations have enough footnotes to wrap multiple lines), and there is no adequate spacing between the allocation and the end of the band, then the band footnotes can be confused for the allocation’s footnotes.
  4. Allocation footnotes need to be checked if they are actually band footnotes. This is an improvement that was added to the digitized NRFP. In the digitized version the allocations are sufficiently spaced and their footnotes are a different colour (grey shaded) than the band footnotes (green shaded). This creates a clearer reading experience for the user and adds style synergy with the main colours of the webpage.

The entire digitization took less than 3 months and the web based NRFP-21 was available on ICASA’s website from April 2022.