ICASA hits back at MTN’s 3.5GHz auction objections

ICASA hits back at MTN’s 3.5GHz auction objections

South African regulator ICASA has confirmed that it will challenge MTN’s legal appeal against a regulatory decision that the operator group claims is “unlawful.”

MTN South Africa’s urgent court application against ICASA was filed with the Pretoria High Court in late January, and relates to the regulator’s decision to grant the first bidding rights for 5G-capable 3.5GHz spectrum to smaller operators.

As noted by CommsUpdate, MTN’s appeal call for ICASA’s proposed 3.5GHz auction process to be ruled “unlawful” as it would split operators into two tiers, with major players MTN and Vodacom falling into the tier-1 category and smaller rivals Cell C, Liquid Telecom, Telkom and other players labelled as tier-2.

ICASA proposes holding an opt-in round of bidding for tier-2 operators only, effectively barring MTN and Vodacom from entering. MTN’s legal appeal argues that the criteria used to determine an operator’s tier rating are “vague, arbitrary and unreasonable”.

In a statement, the regulator said: “The authority would like to point out that it has been in constant communication with MTN on the issues raised in its court application. It is unfortunate that MTN has elected to proceed with instituting legal proceedings … We will go to court and argue our case in defence and furtherance of ICASA’s public interest mandate.”