Telkom moots withdrawing spectrum court interdict

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Telkom is prepared to remove its urgent application to interdict telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from issuing spectrum from the court roll if the parties to the case are amenable to an expedited review of its concerns with the licensing process.

Announcing the latest development today, Telkom says it has consistently called for a meaningfully engagement on the merits of its and other interested parties’ submissions to the telecom regulator.

Telkom approached the North Gauteng High Court earlier this month to review and set aside the invitation to apply (ITA) for spectrum published by ICASA on 10 December 2021.

Following the move, the telecoms regulator expressed concerns that Telkom’s “selfish interests” were highly regrettable, given the authority’s commitment to expediting the auction and delivering much-needed high-demand spectrum to the people of SA in March 2022, or as soon as it is practicably possible.

ICASA was in the process of consulting with its lawyers to carefully study Telkom’s court action.

Telkom’s application is in two segments – part A requests 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.

Nonetheless, Telkom now says: “In light of ICASA having lodged at the court the record of its proceedings (a set of documents that are relevant to the determination of the issues in dispute), a necessary step in the hearing of part B, Telkom has proposed to ICASA and all respondents that it is perhaps prudent to proceed straight to part B.

“Telkom is prepared to remove part A of its application from the court roll if the parties are amenable to an expedited review on part B.”

It adds: “This is on condition that the review is heard before the finalisation of the spectrum auction process, or if ICASA is prepared to move the dates of auction finalisation to await the court judgement.”

The matter has since sucked in Telkom’s peers – Cell C, Vodacom and MTN – which are unhappy with further delays in allocating spectrum.

MTN was the first to express its discontent with Telkom, saying the interdict it sought will further delay the spectrum auction process at a time when the need for expanded access to high-speed broadband is urgent.

Cell C and Vodacom then followed, saying the move to further delay spectrum allocation is unappealing to the telecoms industry and the public in general.

In its statement today, Telkom says these parties are now considering its proposal and as such, the matter is still on the court roll for Tuesday, 25 January.

“A decision to withdraw it depends on the response from the parties and the directions that the court may give,” says Telkom.

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