Telecoms regulator ICASA will oppose MTN South Africa’s urgent court application challenging ICASA’s plan to allow smaller operators to bid first for 5G-suitable spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. The regulator said in a statement: ‘The authority would like to point out that it has been in constant communication with MTN on the issues raised in its court application. It is unfortunate that MTN has elected to proceed with instituting legal proceedings … We will go to court and argue our case in defence and furtherance of ICASA’s public interest mandate.’
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, MTN South Africa filed papers with the High Court in Pretoria against regulator ICASA in late January. 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’.