More spectrum auction problems for ICASA

More spectrum auction problems for ICASA

The saga of South African regulator ICASA and the release of more spectrum to operators has taken another twist, with ICASA now planning to appeal a recent court order halting a forthcoming spectrum auction.

Reuters reports that this ruling could be a setback for the two big names among the country’s mobile operators, MTN and Vodacom, which are seeking to expand 4G capacity and to roll out 5G technology.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has described the spectrum auction as an important economic lever for the country’s growth, may also be disappointed. This auction is seen as a potential boost to the economy, attracting new investment in the sector and creating jobs.

The order is apparently in place pending a hearing on contentions raised by operator Telkom and broadcaster e.tv. The court order further delays a process expected to begin this month.

Chairman of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Keabetswe Modimoeng said the regulator was dismayed by the court’s decision but remained resolute that the licensing process would due course be finalised.

However, the regulator also has issues with MTN. ICASA’s decision to grant the first bidding rights for 5G-capable 3.5GHz spectrum to smaller operators is being challenged in the High Court by MTN – and ICASA is challenging MTN's appeal.

Last October ICASA said it would invite mobile operators to apply to bid for spectrum for 4G and next generation 5G networks from 2 October. Though there hasn’t been a specific date set, the auctions were expected to take place by the end of March.