Telkom, a South African telecommunications provider, is seeking a court order to put a stop to the spectrum auction organised by telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), scheduled to hold in March. This move by Telkom would further hold up South Africa’s 5G rollout which is already delayed by other legal action.
Telecoms operators in South Africa are said to have waited for over 15 years for ICASA to release spectrum licences which are needed to reduce the costs of data and increase network capacity as the use of smartphones and data is constantly growing. The spectrum auction for last year was prevented by a court ruling that followed independent objections from Telkom, e.tv, and MTN Group.
Telkom on Wednesday, January 5th, said that it has made an application for the Gauteng High Court to review the invitation to apply (for the licence) published by ICASA which contains auction rules, spectrum bands and licence obligations. The High Court application includes an “urgent” prohibition to hold up ICASA from processing any licence applications until the review is made.
According to Reuters, Telkom — in the court papers, called the scheduled auction process unlawful, illegal and unreasonable as the auction invite is “tainted by a number of reviewable errors.” Errors which include auctioning sub 1 Gigahertz (GHz) frequency band that is not yet available. Telkom claims that the outcome of the court hearings set to hold from March 14, will impact the availability of spectrum in the aforementioned band.
Telkom is also addressing the lack of transparency surrounding the licensing of a Wholesale Open Access Network— a single large network made available to all telecoms operators wherein they won’t have to build personal infrastructure.
“If allowed to stand, the (invitation) will have enduring negative consequences on the mobile market, including but not limited to reinforcing the anti-competitive structure of the mobile market,” Telkom wrote in court papers.