MTN takes ICASA to court over 5G sale

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MTN, a South African telco, has taken regulator ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) to court over its plans for an upcoming 5G spectrum auction.

Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN), formerly M-Cell and which also controls Verizon’s Business SA company, started its action by stating that ICASA’s decision to auction off the nation’s 3.5 GHz band for 5G deployment was unlawful and should be set aside.

MTN has co-joined various other respondents in its Jan 27 Court action including the Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies. The 60-page affidavit sets out MTN’s argument in some detail.

In particular, MTN is complaining at ICASA planned auction structure saying it is “irrational and inconsistent”, and contrary to the nation’s Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005. “It creates an auction structure that prevents Tier-1 operators from bidding for the spectrum that is necessary to implement 5G technology,” said general manager for legal and regulatory affairs Moses Mashisane.

“They are not only prejudicial to MTN, but will render the [wireless] auction economically inefficient to the detriment of the South African public,” said Mashisane. He said neither MTN, Vodacom nor Cell C currently held spectrum in the 3,500 MHz range. To date, ICASA had assigned spectrum in the 3,500 MHz frequency band to MTN’s rivals Telkom (28 MHz) and Liquid (56 MHz), and also 80 MHz of spectrum in the 3,700 MHz frequency band to Rain.

The MTN legal action is the latest problem for ICASA’s spectrum auction after partly state-owned telecommunications company Telkom approached the court last year to have the process set aside. In December Telkom approached the court seeking a ruling to prevent ICASA from proceeding with the spectrum licencing process.


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