Back to square one for spectrum auction — Telkom declares victory

Telkom says it has been victorious in challenging the approach used by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to issue precious radio frequency spectrum and licence a national wholesale open access network (WOAN).

This comes after Icasa announced at the end of August that it was abandoning its defence against Telkom’s case.

Icasa said that it decided to consent to the order setting aside its decision to publish Invitations To Apply (ITAs) for the spectrum.

The regulator said it chose to consent to the order to avoid long drawn-out litigation.

It said it hopes the auction of the high-demand spectrum can take place by the end of January 2022, provided the litigants in the High Court case accept the proposed consent order today — 15 September 2021.

“Icasa had issued two sets of invitations to apply for the spectrum licensing process and investment in the WOAN, which were opposed by Telkom, MTN and free-to-air broadcaster,” Telkom stated.

“Last week Icasa effectively conceded it could not contest Telkom’s argument that its ITA’s were procedurally unfair and unlawful. It did not oppose the judge’s ruling.”

The implication of the decision is that Icasa will have to start the process afresh, said Telkom.

Telkom said it has consistently argued that Icasa’s ITAs for the spectrum release and WOAN was deeply flawed, would lead to a further entrenchment of the skewed mobile market structure, and would have a negative impact on consumers and data costs.

“Our position that Icasa had not followed the correct procedures and issued the ITAs without proper consideration have been justified by the court’s decision,” said outgoing Telkom Group CEO, Sipho Maseko.

“We only took legal action as a matter of last resort.”

Maseko said that South Africa can’t afford further delays in resolving spectrum licensing or the future of a wholesale open access network.

“As Telkom we are committed to engage with Icasa to ensure there is genuine consultation within the sector and that these discussions are transparent and promote competition in the market,” he said.

He said the court ruling places the onus on Icasa to map out how it will approach the allocation of high-demand spectrum and the establishment of a WOAN.

“We remain committed to work with all parties concerned to ensure a speedy, fair, equitable and transparent allocation of high demand spectrum”, Maseko said.

Now read: The biggest loser — South Africa’s cellphone network users

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Back to square one for spectrum auction — Telkom declares victory