ICASA creates another network mess

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has sparked more controversy after taking down the Easttel network yesterday (8 May 2013) for alleged unpaid license fees.

This follows a similar action brought against iBurst parent, WBS last month.

ICASA obtained a search and seizure warrant and started confiscating Easttel’s telecoms equipment early on 8 May 2013. Easttel is a division of Amatole Telecommunication Services, the last remaining underserviced area licensee (USAL).

Easttel, through Amatole Telecommunication Services (Amatole), has a license to provide WiMax services using 3.5GHz spectrum with microwave backhaul links within the 13GHz and 23GHz spectrum bands.

Easstel director, Mark Gray said that the company’s voice and data went down around 11:30 on Wednesday, which left its customers without Internet or voice services.

The company acted quickly and obtained an urgent court interdict at 17:30 on Wednesday to set aside the search and seizure warrant. The network was brought back up at around 18:00.

Easttel WiMax equipment
Easttel WiMax equipment

ICASA not serving the interests of consumers

Easttel’s legal representative, Dominic Cull, explained that this action from the regulator is regrettable, considering that Amatole was in discussions with ICASA to resolve any outstanding licensee fee issues.

Cull said that the situation shows a strong resemblance to the recent WBS/iBurst case, where ICASA was also on the wrong side of an urgent interdict court ruling.

He said that ICASA seems unable to consider the merits of the matter, and that the authority’s actions left many consumers and businesses without telecoms services.

According to Cull, communication within ICASA is also lacking. ICASA’s own legal department, for example, was not informed about the action against Amatole.

Curiously, the regulator apparently said that it tried to contact Amatole after it had taken down the company’s network, but was not able to reach them.

Dominic Cull
Dominic Cull

Poor communication from ICASA regarding licensee fees

Some telecoms players have indicated that ICASA is unable to provide any accurate figures about outstanding license fees.

Yesterday (8 May 2013), Cell C issued a statement highlighting that it appears as if ICASA is unable to verify its own information regarding outstanding license fees.

iBurst CEO, Thami Mtshali also previously said that the regulator was unable to provide them company with an accurate license fee invoice. Despite this, the regulator still took down its network.

The same situation seems to prevail in the Amatole case. Despite this uncertainty, and ongoing discussions between the parties, ICASA still decided to take down the network.

Cull said that Amatole will continue to engage with the regulator to resolve the issue before the next court date of 29 May 2013.

ICASA was asked for comment regarding the network takedown, but the regulator did not respond by the time of publication.

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ICASA breaks silence on iBurst equipment seizure

Truth behind iBurst network problems

iBurst network damage: photos and cost

iBurst wins court interdict against ICASA

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ICASA creates another network mess