MTN sues ICASA over spectrum auction

28 Jan 2021

MTN South Africa has filed papers with the High Court in Pretoria against regulator ICASA over the upcoming spectrum auction in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands, TechCentral writes. In its application, MTN asks the court to declare ICASA’s process for awarding the 3.5GHz spectrum ‘unlawful’, as the regulator plans to implement an auction structure that creates two tiers of mobile operators – Vodacom and MTN are defined as tier-1 operators, with Telkom, Liquid Telecom, Cell C and others in tier-2 – with an opt-in auction round in which tier-1 operators will be barred from participating. MTN is challenging the definitions used by the regulator to differentiate tier-1 and tier-2 operators, arguing in its court papers that the definitions used are ‘vague, arbitrary and unreasonable’. The company believes that – as the spectrum auction plan currently stands – smaller operators will get all of the available frequencies in the 3.5GHz band during the opt-in phase, preventing MTN from deploying 5G in a band which is widely supported by original equipment manufacturers, including smartphone vendors.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in late December 2020, Telkom filed an application with the High Court in Pretoria seeking an interdict to halt ICASA’s spectrum licensing process, claiming that ICASA’s Invitations To Apply (ITAs) for spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) have fundamental flaws that could entrench the ‘dominance’ of market leaders Vodacom and MTN.