The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is expected on Friday to hand down judgement in the case between the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS).
The ministry is looking to interdict ICASA's decision to go ahead with a planned spectrum licensing process initiated by ICASA.
In July, ICASA issued an invitation to apply (ITA) for licences for spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, to be used to provide mobile broadband wireless access services in SA. But DTPS minister Siyabonga Cwele believes ICASA should have waited until the department had finalised its integrated ICT policy White Paper - which is expected to give specific regulations on spectrum allocations - before inviting operators to bid for spectrum.
The auction date is set down for May 2017 but tomorrow's ruling could potentially change that. The minister's legal team is looking for an interim interdict to stop any progress on the auction until the court has heard full arguments and ruled on the lawfulness of the auction.
According to Business Day, one of the major issues debated in court yesterday was whether the regulator had considered the effects of the actual auction process on competition in the broadband market, as required under the Electronic Communications Act.
The minister and Telkom reportedly argued there was a duopoly in the mobile telecommunications market, with Vodacom and MTN having dominance. Telkom argued that because MTN and Vodacom had deeper pockets, they would be able to get the best quality spectrum on auction, perpetuating the duopoly.
But ICASA argued it had considered the competition implications when it decided to go the auction route and believed it would not adversely affect competition, according to Business Day.