Cell C has warned that the invitation to apply (ITA) for spectrum, issued earlier this month by communications regulator Icasa, would serve only to entrench the dominance of South Africa’s two largest mobile operators, Vodacom and MTN.
Graham Mackinnon, Cell C’s chief legal officer, said that “upon a closer reading of the ITA, it seems that Icasa has not taken into account the future competitive landscape of the telecommunications industry in South Africa”.
“The ITA contemplates two very attractive spectrum lots relative to other lots that, on an auction, would go to the bidders with the deepest pockets. This would favour and further entrench the current Vodacom/MTN duopoly,” Mackinnon said.
He said consumers have benefited enormously from competition in the sector and, in the context of last week’s forecast by the Reserve Bank of 0% GDP growth for 2016, “it is even more important that competition is stimulated as this drives economic growth and job creation”.
The ITA is also a final document, Mackinnon warned, so it can’t be amended to take into account the concerns of industry and other stakeholders.
“Apart from certain contradictions and inadequacies in the spectrum auction process detailed in the ITA, the uncertainty as to how the Lot A spectrum will be awarded and the actual date of availability of the 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum bands, makes it difficult for interested parties to properly evaluate their participation in the proposed auction,” he said.
Icasa has reserved Lot A for later allocation, with a further four lots — B, C, D and E — to be auctioned off, while the 700MHz and 800MHz bands — known as the digital dividend — are still being used for analogue television broadcasts.
Mackinnon said Cell C supports telecoms & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele’s decision to challenge Icasa’s plans legally.
“If due process has not been followed, then Cell C supports the minister’s efforts to ensure that this is done. Spectrum is an incredibly valuable national resource that urgently needs to be unlocked for the benefit of every South African and hence all the necessary boxes should have been ticked before issuing the ITA.”
He said it appears that Icasa has acted with “undue haste” and not consulted properly before issuing the ITA. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media