Communications regulator Icasa said late on Friday that it is nearing a “settlement breakthrough” with telecommunications operators that will allow a planned spectrum auction to proceed.
“The ongoing settlement negotiations on spectrum litigation are unfolding well, with a very encouraging outlook. All active litigants have since responded with their various positions on the matters, and there is an ongoing exchange of constructive engagements between the parties,” Icasa said.
The regulator’s comments come a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa encouraged Icasa and litigants – Telkom and MTN South Africa – to reach an out-of-court settlement through formal mediation.
“As part of the settlement discussions, the authority is consolidating submissions with active litigants and will outline a way forward in due course,” Icasa said. The regulator has previously said it is not prepared to engage in formal mediation, but will hold talks with the operators with a view to resolving the impasse.
“In March 2021, the authority issued communication in respect of its position on mediation and the considerations related to possible settlement discussions with active litigants. The considerations were informed by, among others, counsel’s advice to embark on an expeditious settlement negotiation process that would result in a binding outcome capable of being made an order of court,” it explained.
‘Effective and efficient’
“The option and decision to enter into settlement negotiations has now proven to be effective as well as efficient, and afforded litigants the latitude to express themselves, thereby engaging thoroughly on the matters at hand.”
Icasa chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng said he is confident that the way the parties have been able to engage to resolve the impasse will lead to a positive outcome. He did not say on which issues the parties have found common ground and where there are still areas of dispute.
“As soon as a settlement is reached, Icasa will only need a few more weeks to set the spectrum auction process in motion, and to communicate the new closing date for the wireless open-access network applications,” Modimoeng said.