Telkom asks ICASA to postpone next spectrum auction

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 21 Nov 2023
Telkom wants ICASA to postpone the second spectrum auction to the next financial year.
Telkom wants ICASA to postpone the second spectrum auction to the next financial year.

Telkom wants the next spectrum auction to be pushed back to 2025. The company disclosed the request this morning, when it announced its interim financial results for the six months ended 30 September.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) had earmarked 2024 to conclude the auction of the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) Radio Frequency Spectrum.

In March last year, the telecoms regulator raised R14.4 billion from the country’s historic spectrum auction process. The auction involved six qualified bidders: Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom and Vodacom.

ICASA had set itself a target of R8 billion from the proceeds of the auction, which had been up in the air for some years.

In a statement today, Telkom says the minister of communications and digital technologies confirmed the final analogue television switch-off date in the frequency bands above 694MHz would be 31 July 2023.

It explains that the switch-off would make available for use nationally the sub-1GHz spectrum obtained by Telkom during the auction held in March 2022.

Following the switch-off date, Telkom, along with other market participants, informed ICASA that, although analogue broadcasting transmitters were switched off on 31 July 2023, interference was still being experienced in some areas, it states.

According to Telkom, ICASA committed to investigating the issue and to have the sub-1GHz IMT bands cleared by 30 September 2023.

It notes ICASA has confirmed the issues with interference have now been resolved and that this spectrum should now be available nationally.

Telkom points out that it has already deployed the acquired spectrum in those areas unaffected by television services interference and should now be able to deploy its spectrum anywhere in South Africa based on its commercial requirements.

“If further interference is present, these will be resolved by the authority in accordance with the standard interference resolution processes.

“With the clearing of the sub-1GHz (as confirmed by ICASA), the outstanding auction fees are payable. ICASA has stated that these outstanding fees must be paid on or before 31 December 2023,” the telecoms firm says.

It explains that ICASA has also begun the process of licensing additional high-demand spectrum and has stated it aims to conclude this process by 31 March 2024.

“Telkom has requested that ICASA postpone the second auction to the next financial year (2025), on the basis that studies still need to be completed by ICASA in preparation for the next auction, and that the current challenging economic environment, including the impact of load-shedding, will make it particularly difficult for Telkom and other market participants to partake in the auction. ICASA has, to date, not responded to Telkom's request,” it concludes.