JSE-listed telecommunications operator Telkom is taking its regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), to the high court over a dramatic escalation in the company’s licence fees.
Telkom is objecting to a proposed R60,5m increase in its licence fees, scheduled to kick in from next year. It believes the increase — from R31,5m paid in 2009 to an estimated R92m in 2010 — is unfair and unwarranted and amounts to a new tax on the company.
Icasa is imposing the new fees based on new licence categories created under the Electronic Communications Act, which replaced the old Telecommunications Act.
Telkom has served papers on Icasa in the North Gauteng high court and made provision for it in its books in the event that it loses the case.
“We believe there has to be a proper policy framework in place for any adjustments in licence fees to take place,” says Telkom group CEO Reuben September. “We are engaging with Icasa on this matter.”
Telkom’s chief of corporate governance, Ouma Rasethaba (pictured), explains that the group wants communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda to publish a framework that governs how licence fees are regulated.
In the absence of this framework, Telkom believes that Icasa is imposing licence fees on operators without adequately considering the implications. “We are hoping for an intervention from the minister,” Rasethaba says. “We can’t have fees rocketing up like this. We need an overarching framework from the minister, which is missing.”
Telkom says the Electronic Communications Act also stipulates that licences that are converted from the Telecommunications Act must not attract less favourable terms than under the old legislation.
Icasa spokesman Josias Mathiba confirms that Telkom has served an application on the authority. He says Icasa is still studying the application and seeking advice on the issues raised by Telkom. “In compliance with the court rules, Icasa has filed the necessary record,” he says. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral