Last week’s settlement at the high court that saw Icasa withdrawing the invitations to apply (ITAs) for licensing of high-demand spectrum and the licensing of a wireless open-access network is deeply disappointing.
This ends the legal process that stopped the licensing process and paves the way for Icasa to begin a new licensing process. Licensing of spectrum will always be high stakes due to its financial impact and will always attract litigation when there is a threat of the rights of interested parties rights being compromised.
The South African Communications Forum (SACF) therefore urges Icasa to consult as robustly as is possible on the best mitigation options to prevent the next licensing process being interrupted again. South Africa and the sector absolutely cannot afford further delays in the licensing of this critical high-demand spectrum at a time when reliable telecommunications networks are critical to economic continuity and much-needed recovery.
The settlement decision highlights the flaws in Icasa’s decision to terminate access to temporary spectrum at the end of November this year. Icasa should reconsider its decision to terminate this access as the effect will be to harm consumers and undermine the economy.
South Africa is again in the invidious position of talking about the licensing of 4G spectrum when most other jurisdictions are licensing or have licensed 5G spectrum. We are deeply concerned by historic long delays between licensing processes. The last delay lasted three years and was the shortest. The ICT sector cannot afford to wait another three years — or even one year, for that matter.
SACF members would like to see the restart of the licensing process as soon as is practicably possible, with consultations beginning within a month. We are of the view that the licensing process can begin almost immediately as Icasa is acutely aware of the pain points raised by licensees through the litigation process. Much of this can be amended in the ITA quickly. We expect that the ITAs are likely to substantively similar, which could shorten consultations.
- Katharina Pillay is MD of the SACF, an industry association that represents a broad group of members across the ICT ecosystem