SA multi-band spectrum auction delayed following Telkom challenge

12 Mar 2021

The High Court in Pretoria has issued an interdict preventing Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from proceeding with the auction for high demand spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands, pending the final determination of Telkom’s application to review ICASA’s decision to publish two Invitations To Apply (ITAs). ICASA disclosed that following the development, it ‘cannot at this stage proceed with the auction process and the timetable for that process will have to be revised.’

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 ITAs for spectrum and the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) have fundamental flaws that could entrench the ‘dominance’ of market leaders Vodacom and MTN. Telkom claims that the regulator issued the ITAs despite the fact that the digital dividend bands (700MHz and 800MHz) are still used by analogue TV broadcasters, with Telkom group executive for regulatory affairs and government relations Siyabonga Mahlangu saying: ‘So, we will buy the spectrum, but we will not be able to get a return from it … We can’t commercially exploit that spectrum [until broadcasting digital migration has been completed].’ The executive added: ‘It’s unfair, for a company of our size, to commit that kind of capital, which we could use to compete more effectively… At this stage, no one knows when that spectrum will be available (for use).’