Spectrum auction halted as Telkom gets interdict

The upcoming auction of high-demand spectrum has been delayed after Telkom and Etv were awarded an interdict regarding their case against the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

This interdict will stop the spectrum auction from taking place until the case is heard by the high court in Pretoria.

According to the ruling of the high court, ICASA is interdicted from processing or deciding on any spectrum applications as part of its invitation to apply (ITA) issued earlier this year.

The closing date for spectrum applications related to the planned wholesale open-access network (WOAN) has also been temporarily suspended as a result of this interdict.

MyBroadband reached out to ICASA and Telkom for comment on the Pretoria high court ruling.

Telkom said it welcomes the judgement of the Gauteng High Court to interdict the spectrum licensing process.

The decision affirms its view that there are concerns regarding the lawfulness of the ICASA process, it said.

“Whilst we wait for the court to hear the review, we implore ICASA to engage and explore a path to licence spectrum lawfully, rationally, and expeditiously,” said Telkom Group Executive for Regulatory Affairs Dr. Siyabonga Mahlangu.

“We hope ICASA will take this opportunity to reflect on the issues raised by Telkom and others.”

The ruling is embedded at the end of this article.

Concern over TV spectrum

Telkom and Etv have argued that the assignment of spectrum in the 700MHz – 800MHz band cannot occur until the digital migration process is completed.

Telkom is seeking a court order that digital migration be completed by 30 June 2021 but President Cyril Ramaphosa subsequently stated during his State of the Nation address that the digital migration process will be completed by March 2022.

This means that if Telkom and Etv are successful in their litigation but the deadline for digital migration remains unchanged, the allocation of the 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum, which is a crucial part of the spectrum set to be auctioned, will only take place after March next year.

This would effectively delay the assignment of high-demand spectrum and the consequential reduction in mobile data prices.

MTN has also undertaken legal action against ICASA, arguing against the authority’s tiering and opt-in schemes.

Vodacom has also stepped into the ring, filing a counter-application against MTN’s application. This will be heard together with MTN’s application this month.

The awarding of an interdict to Telkom and Etv, as well as the upcoming legal action over the spectrum auction, means it may be once again delayed.

Interdict ruling

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Spectrum auction halted as Telkom gets interdict