Telecommunications & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele has withdrawn his court action against communications regulator Icasa over the latter’s plan to auction radio frequency spectrum suitable for wireless broadband.
Cwele went to court to try to stop Icasa’s invitation to operators to apply for spectrum. It issued the ITA in July 2016.
In terms of a settlement agreement, Icasa has agreed to withdraw the ITA and the minister will also withdraw his legal challenge.
“This settlement agreement is in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to ‘initiate the process for the allocation of high-demand radio spectrum to enable licensing’ made on Friday, 21 September 2018 in the announcement of the economic stimulus and economic recovery plan,” the parties said in a joint statement.
“The agreement is a product of consultations between the minister, the department and Icasa,” they said. “As a result of the settlement, the minister commenced consultations with Icasa on a draft policy direction for the licensing of high-demand spectrum and intends issuing the draft policy direction for public comment.”
Cwele intends to direct Icasa to issue an ITA, accept and consider applications for an electronic communications network service licence and radio frequency spectrum licence to provide wholesale open access, while ensuring its sustainability and viability, taking into account the outcomes of a CSIR study. A wholesale open-access network, or Woan, is a key plank of the telecoms department’s plan to open the mobile sector to more competition.
“The minister intends to direct Icasa to issue an ITA, and accept and consider applications for electronic communications network service licences and radio frequency spectrum licences for unassigned high-demand spectrum not reserved for assignment to the (Woan),” they said.
At the end of the public consultation process, and after considering the final policy and policy directions issued by the minister, Icasa will commence the licensing process for the assignment of the spectrum.
‘Open for investment’
“We shall continue to consult with all stakeholders to ensure that we roll out modern telecoms infrastructure and services at affordable costs to all citizens of our country,” said Cwele in the statement. “South Africa is open for investment in the ICT sector. Accordingly, the settlement agreement and the subsequent policy direction will contribute to improving investor confidence.”
“The authority is pleased that the impasse over the licensing of high-demand spectrum has finally been resolved,” said Icasa chairman Rubben Mohlaloga. “It is our concerted view that the settlement of the 2016 litigation and pending consultation process on the policy direction provides much needed certainty for the sector to thrive. The authority will ensure that it executes its mandate in a manner that promotes competition, facilitates transformation of the sector and provides a regulatory environment that encourages investment.” — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media