The acting judge president on Tuesday set down the date for a crucial hearing on the licensing of spectrum by communications regulator Icasa radio frequency.
The high court will hear the matter in the week of 11-14 April, Telkom, which is litigating against Icasa, confirmed in a statement. News that a date has been set down sets the stage for a high-stakes clash Telkom and its regulator, the outcome of which will have significant implications for South Africa’s telecommunications industry.
Telkom had hoped the matter would be heard as early as the first week in March, depending on the availability of a judge and senior counsel for the responding parties to the litigation, including Icasa, Vodacom and MTN.Telkom is pleased with the cooperation from the parties in reaching agreement on expediting the court process
Telkom had earlier tried to interdict Icasa from proceeding with the spectrum auction, which is still penned in for next month, but later withdrew this application, arguing it could delay the case to the detriment of the industry.
“Telkom is pleased with the cooperation from the parties in reaching agreement on expediting the court process to finalise the hearing of the merits of Telkom’s arguments against [Icasa’s invitation to apply to participate in the auction] and the process leading up to it being issued.”
Telkom is unhappy about various aspects of the process, including the fact that it’s unclear when the “digital dividend” spectrum to be licensed through the auction will be available as it is still being utilised by television broadcasters. It is also concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the future of a planned wholesale open-access network, or Woan, that could change the competitive dynamics of the market.
Icasa has said it still intends proceeding with the spectrum auction in March. But Telkom said in its statement on Tuesday that the regulator “would now be expected to carefully consider the prudence of proceeding with the auction, mindful that the outcome of the hearing of part B of Telkom’s application (the part dealing with the merits of its case) may have a material impact on the process and outcomes of the auction”.
“Telkom has always reserved its rights to reinstate part A of its application (the interdict) should this become necessary at any point,” it warned in Tuesday’s statement.