Telkom among six bidders for South African spectrum despite objections

Telkom among six bidders for South African spectrum despite objections

South African regulator ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) has received applications from six companies to bid in the country’s imminent spectrum auctions.

Spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands will be made available during the auction, with ICASA aiming to hold bidding no later than 31st March 2021, reports TeleGeography. Cell C, Liquid Telecom, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom and Vodacom have all applied to bid.

Despite applying to bid, Telkom filed a legal challenge against the licensing process in the Pretoria High Court in December 2020, arguing that it contains flaws that will allow MTN and Vodacom to strengthen their already dominant positions in the market.

Telkom notes that ICASA has invited operators to bid on digital dividend bands (700MHz and 800MHz) which are still in use by analogue TV broadcasters, meaning that it is essentially worthless until the broadcasting sector has fully migrated to digital.

Siyabonga Mahlangu, Telkom’s group executive for regulatory affairs and government relations, said: “So, we will buy the spectrum, but we will not be able to get a return from it… We can’t commercially exploit that spectrum. It’s unfair, for a company of our size, to commit that kind of capital, which we could use to compete more effectively… At this stage, no one knows when that spectrum will be available.”

ICASA Chair Keabetswe Modimoeng said: “The Authority remains committed to defend this important process against any form of litigation, with a full appreciation of what the benefits of licensing high demand spectrum will be for consumers and the public at large. We are unwavering in this regard.”

The regulator has also indicated that it will take a counter action against Telkom’s application to bid.

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