Will South Africa’s next spectrum auction now go ahead on 8 March as planned? A compromise gesture on the part of operator Telkom, whose court proceedings threatened to derail the process, implies that it may.
Local press reports indicate that Telkom has now dropped its application to call a halt to imminent plans to auction 4G and 5G spectrum, having reached an agreement with the other parties involved in the contested process.
These include the regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which had hoped to start the long-delayed auction on 8 March.
Removing the matter from the court roll is, however, conditional on other parties agreeing to an expedited hearing of the merits of Telkom's case. This, rather confusingly, is described as Part B of its application against ICASA’s Invitation to Apply (ITA), which was published on 10 December 2021.
Telkom has been insisting that the way the auction process has been formulated by ICASA will mean an uneven playing field for some telecommunications groups involved in the auction. It is hoped that the court can fit in an expedited review of Part B between 1-4 March 2022 .
Telkom has agreed to remove the hearing of Part A, which requests the court to urgently suspend the Invitation To Apply, of its application from the urgent roll. This an interesting change of tack given an earlier reported statement that the invite was “tainted by a number of reviewable errors”.
Telkom does, however, reserves its rights to reinstate the matter at short notice. Part A was due to be heard on 25 January.