Communications regulator Icasa has for a second time issued a public appeal to Telkom to drop its litigation over the recently concluded auction of radio frequency spectrum to telecommunications operators.
Late on Tuesday, following the high court’s ruling that analogue switch-off will take place at the end of June (from 31 March as government had planned), Icasa issued a statement asking Telkom to “consider withdrawing its litigation”.
Icasa said it welcomed the judgment in the case brought by e.tv against communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
“The authority notes that the high court has dismissed the applications by e.tv and other parties to restrain the minister from determining the analogue switch-off date until every indigent person, whether registered for [government-subsidised] set-top boxes or not is provided with such set-top boxes,” Icasa said.
A potential further delay in South Africa’s already long-delayed digital migration project was one of the key concerns flagged by Telkom in its litigation – it had been concerned it wouldn’t get access to spectrum below 1GHz still used by broadcasters until a date well into the future.
Icasa said the end-June analogue switch-off allowed by the court aligns conveniently with the expiry of “provisional” spectrum allocated to operators under the Covid-19 national state of disaster, and this will ensure the “seamless transition of services by 1 July”.
“This judgment brings certainty and conclusiveness with regards to digital migration in South Africa. This coincides with the successful conclusion of the radio frequency spectrum auction, as well as government’s intention to revise the wireless open-access network policy regime,” Icasa said.
“As a result of these developments, we appeal to Telkom to consider withdrawing its litigation and to allow the upcoming consultation avenues on these regulatory interventions to conclude. It is therefore a humble plea, and we believe that Telkom will join all of us in embracing the new winds of digital evolution in our country,” said Icasa chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng in the statement.
E.tv has not yet commented on the high court judgment, including on whether it plans to take it on appeal to the supreme court.