The auctioning of high-speed internet spectrum will face further delays in South Africa after Telkom won a court ruling suspending the process.
This week the Pretoria High Court ruled that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) should hold off on the auction and lift a deadline for the submission of final bids while Telkom’s case is considered.
The decision threatens to derail the sale of more than R8 billion of broadband spectrum following years of delays – a move designed to help revive the economy and lower data costs.
In response to the ruling, chairperson of Icasa Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng expressed his utmost confidence in the judiciary and said he ‘remains resolute’ that the licensing process will be finalised in due course.
“We have never been so close to licensing high demand spectrum. We were literally three weeks away from auctioning this much-needed resource that would have seen South Africans benefit through this process in terms of reduced data costs and improvement in quality of service and experience.
“In commitment to our public interest mandate, the council of Icasa has resolved to exhaust all legal avenues in respect of this process,” said Modimoeng.
Modimoeng added that this is not the end of the road for Icasa but the very beginning.
“We were here in 2016 when an interdict on a similar matter was issued, and that led the Authority to enter into an Out-of-Court settlement, withdrawal of the Invitation To Apply and other forms of mediation. Such interventions took us nowhere.
“We are not going back there. It is our considered view that the best option is to exhaust all possible legal avenues at our disposal, including appeals so to ensure that this sensitive licensing process is not only defined by industry players but also by the public.”
Icasa added that Telkom’s opposition to this licensing process has therefore been consistent.
“The delay in the licensing of high demand spectrum has huge implications in terms of competition in the mobile services market as well as reduction of cost to communicate particularly data costs for consumers and business,” the regulator said.
“For as long as there is an interdict in place, South Africans will continue to bear the brunt for high data costs, ineffective competition and a deprived economy.
“But Icasa remains confident and forward-looking to ensure that South Africans ultimately benefit from this licensing process.”