Telkom challenges ICASA spectrum auction

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South Africa’s Telkom has thrown the regulator ICASA’s planned spectrum auction into considerable confusion.

Telkom has filed a formal objection with the country’s high court over ICASA’s planned auction saying that it is not satisfied with the way ICASA is managing the process. The auction was due to open in March.

According to the filing, Telkom wants the court to forbid ICASA from proceeding with the auction, and for the court to then hear its arguments on the matter on an urgent basis, according to Telkom’s its VP/regulatory affairs and government regulations, Siyabonga Mahlangu.

Mahlangu is quoted locally as saying that ICASA has failed to consider the competitive landscape in crafting the rules around the spectrum auction; and that ICASA’s decision to delay the licensing of the wholesale open-access network (an interlinked process) has created uncertainty. Telkom is also unhappy about the way ICASA plans to impose spectrum caps.

The dilemma for the court is that the advantages and merits of the auction have been argued for some considerable time and made all the more crucial because of the current and recent impacts of the Covid pandemic and the need to free up spectrum for staff working from home. Telkom rivals Vodacom and MTN, in particular, are desperate to get their hands on additional capacity.

Unfortunately, there is little love lost between the likes of Vodacom which has already heavily criticised Telkom for what it alleged were deliberate delaying tactics from Telkom in order to favour its own agenda.


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