Altech gets its reward

JSE listed Allied Technologies Limited (Altech), announced on Tuesday that the group has finally reaped the fruit of its labour with electronic communications network service (I-ECNS) and electronic communications service (I-ECS) licences officially being issued to Altech Autopage Cellular last Friday by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

"The issuance of the licences is not only a victory for Altech but also for the South African telecommunications industry as a whole. We eagerly look forward to participating in the new competitive environment that will result," commented Altech’s Chief Executive Officer, Craig Venter.

The company’s triumph demanded much diligence and perseverance. Altech began its regulatory challenge almost one year ago, and in August 2008 the Pretoria High Court ruled in Altech’s favour to the entitlement of having its existing Value Added Network Services (Vans) licence converted into an I-ECNS licence enabling the group’s telecommunications subsidiary to develop and operate its own telecommunications network. Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri applied for leave to appeal this decision, but on 31 October the High Court refused this application with costs.

The minister then lodged an urgent court interdict to halt issuance of the licence by Icasa, which was also overturned by the High Court, at which time the perpetual dispute was concluded.

Steven Sidley, Altech’s Chief Technology Officer, also commented: "This is more than a simple regulatory victory for the industry. The myriad new technologies that enable telecoms and IT convergence now will have a clear path to bring enriched services to corporate and residential consumers, and will finally allow South Africans unfettered access to the broadband service cornucopia enjoyed by the First World."

The final ruling specified that South African by-law obliges Icasa to issue network provider licences to all Vans licensees such as Altech, not to only a handful of licensees as was the case. The ruling thus signifies that all qualifying Vans licence holders will be entitled to self-provide for their own needs insofar as telecommunications infrastructure is concerned. Many of the Vans that will benefit from this ruling are smaller players who will now be able to bring entrepreneurial innovation to smaller and rural challenges. The larger Vans, like Altech, will now have a level playing field on which to innovate and compete against the big incumbents, like Telkom and the mobile operators. All of this will certainly result in a value bonanza for the consumer.

"We are delighted to have spearheaded this process that liberated the industry. More than 300 companies, not to mention the final consumer, is set to benefit from the increased choice, additional competition and reduced costs that will occur from access to an increased base of potential providers," said Venter.

Venter concluded: "Strategies stemming from the issuance of the licences will be put in place which will significantly benefit the business and enhance shareholder value. We will announce details of these strategies in due course."

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Altech gets its reward