e.tv, the South African broadcaster and a division of eMedia Investments, says that the country’s ICASA regulator’s plans to sell off terrestrial spectrum will damage its free-to-air business.
e.tv has joined a lawsuit with Telkom, a major South African telco and broadband supplier, to request that the high court places a hold on ICASA’s scheme.
Documents filed at the court in the nation’s capital Pretoria on behalf of eMedia asked the court to deliver an “intervention and interdict” on the ICASA plan. The plan calls for a spectrum auction in the 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequency bands.
Antonio Sergio Lee, eMedia Investments’ COO, said ICASA’s auction process for the digital dividend bands is “unlawful, unreasonable and irrational” by design and in application, and “cannot yield a rational or reasonable outcome”.
The ICASA auction is scheduled to start by March 31st this year.
The Telkom court filing requests that ICASA be prevented from processing, assessing, or adjudicating applications under two invitations to apply (ITAs) — one for spectrum and the other for a licence for a wholesale open-access network, both of which were due for submission by no later than December 28th.
Core to the pair’s complaints is that while ICASA is planning to auction off the spectrum, there is – as yet – no fully determined analogue switch off in favour of digital transmission. The court papers ask how can ICASA sell off – and demand payment – for the analogue spectrum despite the inability for successful bidders to actually use the frequencies.