The High Court recently ruled that Altech Autopage Cellular, through its VANS license, has the right to self provide (build its own telecoms network). This in turn entitles Altech, and all other existing value-added network services (VANS) license holders, to an individual electronic communications network service (I-ECNS) license.
The Department of Communications and ICASA, who opposed Altech in the matter, lost the case with costs. ICASA said that they would not appeal this ruling, but Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri and the Department of Communications however decided to appeal, saying that it will jeopardize the ‘managed liberalization process’.
The Department of Communications has now made an application to the High Court aiming to suspend the entitlement of Altech to an I-ECNS licence, and ICASA’s obligation in terms of the judgment to issue such a licence pending the determination of the leave to appeal and if successful pending the determination of the appeal.
According to court papers the DoC further asked for an interdict against ICASA Chairman Paris Mashile and ICASA from issuing an I-ECNS licence to Altech. The DoC is also applying for the ‘cost of this application’ and ‘further and or alternative relief’.
The High Court document further says that if this order is to be opposed the applicants must file their notice by 10:00 on Monday 20 October 2008, file their answering affidavit, if any, by no later than close of business on Wednesday 22nd October 2008, file a replying affidavit, if any, by no later than close of business on Friday 24th October 2008.
ICASA has however issued a Gazetted statement on 3 October 2008 saying that it is withdrawing its notice on 5 September 2008 where the regulator said that it is ready to issue converted licenses to licensees.
ICASA was initially planning to issue I-ECS and I-ECNS licenses to various VANS after a high court ruling that VANS were entitled to self provide, effectively giving them automatic rights to I-ECNS licenses under the Electronic Communications Act (ECA).
The DoC’s appeal of the court ruling however put this process on hold again, and act that has been widely criticized by both consumers and industry players.
ICASA said it will issue another notice with respect to the licence conversion process in due course.