Vodacom has filed papers in the Pretoria High Court to oppose Telkom’s application for an urgent interdict against the spectrum auction that industry regulator Icasa wants to hold on 8 March 2022.
Telkom approached the Pretoria High Court last week Tuesday to block the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (Icasa) from going through with the auction.
Radio frequency spectrum is the raw network capacity that cellular network operators use to communicate between mobile devices and their towers.
South Africa’s mobile network operators, including Telkom, have long maintained that releasing additional spectrum will help reduce prices, increase coverage, and improve network quality.
However, Telkom said that there are major problems with Icasa’s spectrum licensing process:
- Crucial analogue TV spectrum—known as the “digital dividend”—is still unavailable, as E-tv refuses to relinquish it by March 2022.
- E-tv owner eMedia has a pending court case against the Minister of Communications and Icasa about the spectrum that will only be heard in mid-March.
- Not considering the competitive landscape or adequately consulting the Competition Commission.
- Implementing uniform caps on the amount spectrum each operator is allowed to hold.
- Delay of the national wireless open-access network (WOAN).
Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, Rain, and MTN have filed papers opposing Telkom’s application.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said that they filed notice on Monday afternoon to oppose the first part of Telkom’s legal challenge — which is the interdict.
Part A of Telkom’s legal challenge also asks for an order to expedite Part B.
Part B asks for a court order declaring Icasa’s decisions to publish the spectrum auction and defer the licensing of the WOAN unlawful.
Telkom also asked the court to issue an order forcing Icasa to go back to the drawing board, as follows:
- Launch public consultations on the various options available to license spectrum, including the effect of each option on competition in the market.
- Public consultations on the minimum requirements for the WOAN to be effective, including the spectrum it will need.
- Publish a draft invitation to apply and invite interested parties to make submissions before finalising it.
- Implement remedies that compensate for the event that E-tv might occupy some of the digital dividend spectrum at the time of licensing.
Vodacom noted that it did not oppose Part B of Telkom’s application that asks the court to rule on the merits of these issues.
“We remain committed to an expedited and fair spectrum auction process,” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.
Kennedy said they had provided guidance to Icasa in their written submissions to the regulator’s 2021 Information Memorandum consultations.
He added that Vodacom also continues to engage stakeholders as the operator works toward a successful auction.
“As we have said previously, the award of new spectrum is a critical part of reducing input costs and the cost of data in South Africa.”