Spectrum Management

Telkom Draws First Victory - SA's Spectrum Auction Is Placed On Hold!

The much-anticipated spectrum auction planned for later this month has been placed on hold after Telkom and e.tv secured a favourable judgment against ICASA, allowing their case to be presented at the Pretoria High Court.  This judgment comes as ICASA and MTN were scheduled to meet on Tuesday in court over the mobile operator's licencing access to the 3.5GHz band.

Judge Selby Baqwa, the leading judge in the Pretoria High Court in South Africa, has prohibited ICASA from assessing any submissions received under its invitation to participate in the spectrum auction scheduled to occur no later than the 31st of March 2021. Incorporated in this judgement is the suspension of the closing date for all applications from organisations aiming to operate a wholesale open-access network, also known as WOAN.

Vodacom and MTN, the most significant Telkom competitors, have been routing for the spectrum auction's commencement. They believe that South Africa is more than a decade behind schedule in licensing the 4G-suitable spectrum.  Their concern is that due to this judgment to delay the spectrum auction, the rollout of commercial 5G networks in South Africa will be negatively impacted by the unnecessary postponements.

Additional concerns from MTN highlight that an "opt-in phase" in the auction process could bar it from getting access in this significant frequency band for 5G. It was not yet clear on Monday whether the MTN matter will, in any case, be heard on Tuesday, given the interdict given to the Telkom.


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