Telkom berates ICASA as South African spectrum sale saga continues

Telkom berates ICASA as South African spectrum sale saga continues

The wait for 5G rollout and expansion of 4G capacity in South Africa may now go on even longer thanks to efforts by operator Telkom to delay the spectrum auction due to happen in March.

Reuters reports that Telkom is seeking an urgent court order to prevent telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from holding the auction, further delaying a process already held back by legal action; earlier attempts to auction high-demand spectrum were stymied by legal objections from Telkom, broadcaster, and MTN Group last year.

Telkom wants a High Court review of the invitation to apply, which outlines the auction rules, spectrum bands and licence obligations, published by ICASA last month. It also wants to ensure ICASA does not process any applications until the review is heard.

Reuters quotes a hard-hitting statement from Telkom that attacks the legality of the auction process and says that the invite is “tainted by a number of reviewable errors”, including the auctioning of the sub 1 Gigahertz (GHz) frequency band, which is, apparently, not yet available.

Telkom is also exercised by the lack of clarity around the timing in licensing a Wholesale Open Access Network (WOAN). As reported in these pages recently, this has been put on hold.“If allowed to stand, the (invitation) will have enduring negative consequences on the mobile market, including but not limited to reinforcing the anti-competitive structure of the mobile market,” Telkom said in court papers.

While the merit of the objections is for the court to decide, a lot of very frustrated end users may well be wondering when and if the extra spectrum will ever be available that could help reduce the high cost of data in South Africa.

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