Spectrum Management

South Africa: Presidency Asking For Spectrum Auctioning To Resume Immediately

Following an interdict by companies to stop the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from rolling out the spectrum anticipated by the end of May 2021. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has requested mediation in the spectrum auctioning process, which stalled due to legal disputes.

Ramaphosa made the remarks during a press conference on Thursday, June 10, as part of the government's efforts to achieve a rapid and long-term economic recovery. The telecoms regulator, ICASA, had initially planned to auction the long-awaited high-demand spectrum by March 31, 2021. On the other hand, MTN, Telkom, and Etv sued the regulator in court, challenging some aspects of the auction procedure.

Telkom filed the lawsuit for various reasons, including the fact that the way the auction is set up will cement MTN and Vodacom's dominance. Etv, a television station, has joined Telkom in its legal battle, arguing that ICASA's intent to sell spectrum in the 700MHz and 800MHz frequency bands will impact TV broadcasters as they still use it for their channels. MTN also took ICASA to the North Gauteng High Court in January, disputing the regulator's plan to license the 3.5GHz spectrum in a way that it said would exclude Tier 1 operators from the auction.

The President noted that he believes "it would be in the best interest of the telecoms providers to engage in a mediation process". And that the presidency will be supportive of the process, which they are confident the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, alongside ICASA, will actively participate in settling. The auction process is one of those projects that will liberate a lot of energy in the country, allowing the economy to flourish.

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