MultiChoice, which operates the DStv service, has been awarded a digital mobile television broadcasting licence by default after the other bidder, Super 5 Media, withdrew its application.
In April, Icasa issued an invitation to apply for mobile TV spectrum and received applications from Super 5 Media, MultiChoice, e.tv and the Mobile TV Consortium.
Icasa shocked the industry when it disqualified three of the four initial bidders, leaving only e.tv with a licence. The free-to-air broadcaster was licensed to use 40% of the available space in the first multiplex — a chunk of radio frequency spectrum used for digital terrestrial broadcasting.
The authority subsequently issued a second invitation to apply for spectrum and Super 5 Media and MultiChoice where the only applicants.
According to Icasa chairman Stephen Mncube, both companies met the requirements and were supposed to go head-to-head in an auction for the spectrum.
“Unfortunately, Super 5 Media withdrew its application and declined to participate at the auction. This left MultiChoice as the only successful applicant for the second round,” he says.
MultiChoice will take up the remaining spectrum in the first multiplex.
It’s not immediately clear why Super 5 Media decided to withdraw its application, but the recent troubles at the company — it has retrenched its entire complement of staff — is the likely reason.
It is also unlikely that the company would have been able to outbid MultiChoice in an auction.
Mncube says neither MultiChoice nor e.tv will pay an upfront fee for the licence, other than the R70 000 it paid for its application fee. However, they will be required to pay and annual licence fee for the spectrum.
MultiChoice and e.tv, which will receive their licences next week, have both been given 12 months by Icasa to launch services. It appears likely MultiChoice’s DStv Mobile division will launch a product much sooner than that, though, since it’s been piloting a mobile broadcast service for several years already.
MultiChoice says it can’t say exactly when it will launch a service. It already runs a similar service in other African countries, and its Ghanaian operation has proved popular.
Super 5 Media and e.tv were not available for comment at the time of publication. — Candice Jones, TechCentral