The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa’s) council has resolved that the body’s inspectors should no longer seize equipment of operators believed to be making use of radio frequency spectrum unlawfully, TechCentral has learnt from a well-placed source.
This follows the seizure earlier this year of equipment owned by Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) — causing extensive downtime for users of subsidiaries iBurst and Broadlink — as well as of equipment belonging to Amatole Telecommunication Services (trading as Easttel).
The decision by the Icasa council may put Icasa’s inspectors in a difficult position as they try to ensure that operators do not continue using spectrum unlawfully. It’s understood the council made the decision in May.
On Friday, Icasa spokesman said the council had “resolved that the seizures be held in abeyance until further notice” and that the authority should at the same time “further engage the defaulting radio frequency spectrum licensees to pay their outstanding license fees, failing which drastic steps will be taken against such licensees including but not limited to seizure of electronic communication equipment or reference to the complaints and compliance committee for adjudication”.
This week, Icasa and Amatole reached an out-of-court settlement, the details of which both parties have agreed to keep confidential. It’s understood that the East London circuit division of the high court decided the case in favour of Icasa. It’s understood further that Amatole has until 31 October to pay all fees due to Icasa, failing which the authority may activate the search warrant and seize all radio apparatus belonging to the company.
However, if Amatole fails to pay, it’s unclear whether Icasa’s inspectors will feel they are able to seize the equipment in light of the council’s decision.
In April, Icasa raided WBS facilities in Bryanston and Gallo Manor in Johannesburg, seizing radio equipment and causing as much as 75% of Broadlink’s network to go down. Icasa was later forced to return the equipment after WBS was granted an urgent interdict. The high court in Johannesburg heard WBS’s case on 10 June and judgment is expected soon.
In May, a month after the WBS seizures, Icasa inspectors raided Amatole’s offices in the Eastern Cape, again seizing equipment because, according to Icasa, the company owed hundreds of thousands of rands in outstanding spectrum licence fees.
The same day Amatole was raided, the high court circuit division in East London ordered that the search warrant issued by the magistrate’s court be suspended or set aside and that all equipment seized in Icasa’s raid be returned.
In April, TechCentral received documents outlining the amounts owed to Icasa by licensees, including a staggering R189,2m the authority claims it is owed by the South African National Defence Force. The list showed Icasa claimed it was owed R372m in spectrum fees by licensees. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media