Icasa has appealed to Telkom to abandon its legal action aimed at stopping the upcoming spectrum auction, appealing to its “patriotic conscience”.
This comes as pressure mounts against the partially state-owned telecommunications operator over its efforts to interdict the critical spectrum licensing process.
Icasa’s plea to Telkom — by its CEO, Willington Ngwepe, in an interview with TechCentral on Monday — comes as news emerged, and reported here for the first time, that Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile operator, has joined the minister of communications, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and operators MTN South Africa and Rain in giving notice to the high court that they will fight Telkom’s legal action.
Vodacom’s move means Telkom looks set to find itself up against a wall of legal opposition — and highly paid senior counsel — when it heads to the high court in Pretoria to try to stop the long-awaited auction, including from its largest shareholder – the government.
Icasa has now appealed to Telkom to back off from its latest legal moves in the interests of the sector and the broader South African economy.
“Given the latest developments, we appeal to Telkom’s patriotic conscience to unreservedly withdraw their litigation as such a move would enable Icasa to focus on addressing the concerns raised in the invitation to apply [to participate in the auction] by the key stakeholders, without compromising the urgent need to expedite the spectrum licensing process,” the Ngwepe told TechCentral,
Vodacom said in court papers seen by TechCentral that it will oppose Telkom’s application for an interdict to stop the auction, joining other operators in doing so.
Vodacom has not anything in the papers about the second part of Telkom’s application, which deals with the merits of the matter. Icasa has, however, disclosed that Vodacom has concerns about the process Icasa is following in licensing broadband spectrum.
Telkom is taking Icasa to court because it is concerned, among other things, by the fact that analogue television broadcasters have yet to stop using the highly prized “digital dividend” bands of 700MHz and 800MHz that Icasa intends licensing. Telkom is worried that legal action by e.tv parent eMedia Holdings will delay analogue television switch-off, with Ntshavheni and her boss, President Cyril Ramaphosa, having promised will be completed by the end of March.
TechCentral reported at the weekend that Ntshavheni filed papers at the high court stating her intention to oppose Telkom’s application to interdict Icasa over the spectrum auction.
Telkom brought the urgent application last week, seeking to interdict Icasa from proceeding with the auction, prompting the regulator to accuse the company of acting in its own narrow commercial self-interest by heading to court for the second time in a year over the auction.
Telkom group executive for regulatory affairs and government relations Siyabonga Mahlangu said the company is challenging the latest process on several grounds. These include that spectrum in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands is still not available (and might not be available for some time); that Icasa 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. – © 2022 NewsCentral Media