ICASA receives six applications for high demand spectrum

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ICASA chairman Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.
ICASA chairman Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

Telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) remains steadfast on spectrum allocation, saying it will defend the integrity of the process in any forum, including litigation.

The spectrum auction pencilled for March next year has been put under spotlight in recent weeks amid growing opposition to the process from some sections of the industry.

Announcing yesterday that the regulator had received six applications for spectrum licensing in response to the Invitation to Apply (ITA) for the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum issued on 2 October 2020, ICASA chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, expressed gratitude to the applicants and cautioned detractors.

“The authority remains committed to defend this important process against any form of litigation, with a full appreciation of what the benefits of licensing high demand spectrum will be for consumers and the public at large. We are unwavering in this regard,” he said.

The warning by the ICASA chairperson comes on the back of growing opposition to the forthcoming spectrum auction, with ex-Vodacom Business and South African Airways CEO, Vuyani Jarana’s Mafadi Consortium becoming the latest entity to criticise the process.

Last week, Telkom launched an urgent court bid to halt the process to allow broader participation as well as making amendments to the ITA terms.

In the court papers, the telephony group says the fundamental flaw made by ICASA is that the ITA involves the auction of portions of spectrum in the 703-733 MHz paired with 758-788 MHz (the 700 MHz) and the 791-821 MHz paired with 832-862 MHz (the 800 MHz) frequency bands, which it argues are not immediately available for use on a national basis by a licensee who may ultimately succeed in its bid during the auction process.

ICASA has, however, continued with process announcing that in terms of the ITA, the regulator has made available the IMT spectrum bands in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz, and 3500MHz bands for assignment to qualifying applicants.

Cell C, Rain Networks, Vodacom, Telkom, Liquid Telecoms and MTN had lodged applications by close of business yesterday, which was the cut-off date.

Modimoeng said: “The council of the authority is, indeed, grateful to all applicants who responded to this call for the licensing of high demand spectrum. We are ready and committed in ensuring that we take the necessary care; and that the release of the spectrum and this process in general is indeed procedurally fair and non-discriminatory.”

ICASA insists that it intends to conduct an auction for the licensing of high demand spectrum by no later than 31 March 2021 and it will keep the public and stakeholders updated with regards to the developments on this process.

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