Court to hear Telkom, ICASA spectrum fight in April

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 08 Feb 2022

The court case pitting telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) against Telkom over the spectrum auction process has been set for April.

In a statement, Telkom says the acting judge president confirmed today that part B of Telkom’s application to review ICASA’s decision to publish the invitation to apply (ITA) for spectrum has been set down for hearing in the week of 11-14 April.

The telco has been at odds with the regulator over ICASA’s roadmap to license the spectrum by March this year.

Last month, the telecommunications company filed an application asking the Gauteng High Court to review and set aside the ITA for high-demand spectrum published on 10 December 2021.

Telkom said it has serious difficulties with ICASA’s decision to again include sub-1GHz spectrum in the intended auction.

The telco argues this band is currently the subject of a legal challenge brought by broadcaster Etv in the digital migration process.

However, later on in January, Telkom asked the courts to remove from the roll its urgent application to interdict ICASA from auctioning the spectrum.

This, after other telcos MTN, Vodacom and Cell C had also approached the courts to challenge Telkom’s action to halt the auction.

Telkom’s application was in two segments – part A, which requested the court to urgently suspend the ITA, while the court deliberates on part B of Telkom’s application, which focuses on the merits of its arguments against the licensing process.

In its statement today, the telco says: “Telkom is pleased with the co-operation from the parties in reaching agreement on expediting the court process to finalise the hearing of the merits of Telkom’s arguments against the ITA and the process leading up to it being issued.

“As indicated by parties at the meeting with the acting judge president, the regulator, a respondent in this application, would now be expected to carefully consider the prudence of proceeding with the auction, mindful that the outcome of the hearing of part B of Telkom’s application may have a material impact on the process and outcomes of the auction.

“Telkom has always reserved its rights to reinstate part A of its application should this become necessary at any point.”

Last week, ICASA announced that Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Rain Networks and Liquid Telecoms have tendered applications for the International Mobile Telecommunications spectrum licences, also known as high-demand spectrum, marking a milestone towards the auctioning of spectrum.

Unlike its African counterparts, SA is one of the few countries that have not allocated 4G/LTE spectrum on the continent. This has forced local operators to improvise, with spectrum re-farming and carrier aggregation.

For the mobile operators, spectrum allocation will help provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services. It’s expected that the freed-up spectrum will reduce the cost of data and increase access to the internet.

Additionally, for government, a spectrum auction means a boost to the fiscus.