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Big six telcos pass first hurdle in spectrum auction process

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Telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) today announced Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Rain Networks and Liquid Intelligent Technologies have all passed the pre-qualification stage of the spectrum licensing process.

The six telcos have now cleared the first hurdle and can participate in the planned auction stage at the beginning of next month.

The telecoms regulator initially announced earlier this month that the six had tendered applications for the International Mobile Telecommunications spectrum licences, marking a milestone towards the auctioning of spectrum.

Now with the development announced today, ICASA says it will conduct a bidder seminar on 28 February, followed by mock-auctions from 1 to 3 March with the individual bidders.

Thereafter, the auction stage will commence on 8 March with the in-person single round opt-in auction.

The main online auction shall take place from 10 March, says the regulator.

“In line with the truncated timetable published by the authority for this licensing process, and after extensive analysis of received applications, the qualifying bidders are: Cell C, Liquid Telecoms, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom and Vodacom,” says ICASA.

This development now paves the way for the spectrum auction, which had stalled for years.

The continued delays in allocating spectrum had been criticised by many, including president Cyril Ramaphosa, who lamented the slow pace of auctioning the spectrum during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) earlier this month.

During the SONA, Ramaphosa pointed out that innovation is being held back by a scarcity of broadband spectrum, and companies are reluctant to invest, which therefore stifles the economy.

At the time, he hinted ICASA would commence with the process of auctioning the high-frequency communications spectrum within three weeks.

“This will unlock new spectrum for mobile telecommunication for the first time ever in over a decade,” he said.

In addition, Ramaphosa said government will facilitate the rapid deployment of broadband infrastructure across all municipalities by establishing a standard model for the granting of municipal permissions.

“These reforms will revolutionise the country’s technological development, making faster broadband accessible to more people; but, more importantly, reducing the cost of digital communications.”

Today, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, ICASA chairperson, made the announcement on the six pre-qualified bidders, saying: “The fact that all six applicants have qualified illustrates the robustness of our telecommunications sector in South Africa.

“We can officially proclaim the forthcoming March 2022 spectrum auction as an unparalleled milestone in our country's communications history as this will be the first-ever spectrum auction held on our shores.

“We commit ourselves to discharge this vital public-interest mandate to the very best of our abilities as we continue to confront the ongoing litigation head-on. With only two weeks remaining, we need to see selfless and responsible corporate citizenship at play."

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13 Aug
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