The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has had to delay the licensing of high-demand spectrum following Telkom’s court victory to have the process interdicted, it said yesterday. Photo: Leon Nicholas
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has had to delay the licensing of high-demand spectrum following Telkom’s court victory to have the process interdicted, it said yesterday. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Icasa laments licensing delay

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Mar 10, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - THE INDEPENDENT Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has had to delay the licensing of high-demand spectrum following Telkom’s court victory to have the process interdicted, it said yesterday.

Icasa said the delay would have huge implications in terms of competition in the mobile services market and the reduction of the cost to communicate, particularly data costs for consumers and business.

“For as long as there is an interdict in place, South Africans will continue to bear the brunt for high data costs, ineffective competition and a deprived economy. But Icasa remains confident and forward-looking to ensure that South Africans ultimately benefit from this licensing process,” Icasa said.

Icasa was scheduled to auction high-demand spectrum at the end of this month. However, an order by the Gauteng High Court has interdicted the process.

In the order, Icasa was also restrained from proceeding with the auction process pending the final determination of Telkom’s application to review Icasa’s decision to publish the two Invitations To Apply (ITAs).

Icasa chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng said although the authority was dismayed by the decision, it remained resolute that the licensing process shall be finalised in due course.

“We have never been so close to licensing a high-demand spectrum. We were literally three weeks away from auctioning this much-needed resource that would have seen South Africans benefit through this process in terms of reduced data costs and improvement in quality of service and experience. In commitment to our public interest mandate, the council of Icasa has resolved to exhaust all legal avenues in respect of this process,” said Modimoeng.

In welcoming the decision yesterday, partially state-owned Telkom said the judgment affirmed its view that there were concerns regarding the lawfulness of the Icasa process.

Telkom’s group executive for regulatory affairs, Siyabonga Mahlangu, said: “Whilst we wait for the court to hear the review, the group implores Icasa to engage and explore a path to licence spectrum lawfully, rationally and expeditiously.

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

Last December, Telkom approached the courts, because it believed Icasa’s ITAs for spectrum and the planned wholesale open-access network (Woan) had fundamental flaws that could entrench the “dominance” of Vodacom and MTN.

In 2016, an interdict on a similar matter was issued, and that led Icasa to enter into an out-of-court settlement, the withdrawal of the ITA, and other forms of mediation, said Modimoeng.

“We are not going back there. It is our considered view that the best option is to exhaust all possible legal avenues at our disposal, including appeals so to ensure that this sensitive licensing process is not only defined by industry players but also by the public interest. We, however, await the reasons for the judgment,” said Modimoeng.

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