The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) says it will oppose MTN’s court action over the upcoming 5G spectrum auction.

MTN filed papers in the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday to declare unlawfully, and to review, correct or set aside two decisions made by ICASA which relate to the spectrum auction process.

The mobile phone operator MTN asks the court to declare Icasa’s process for awarding the 3.5GHz spectrum unlawful.

In December,  Telkom in December filed an urgent court application saying it considers the regulator’s spectrum auction process to be irregular and unlawful.

ICASA said in a statement on Friday it was currently reviewing the application and has instructed its legal representatives to oppose the application.

The communications watchdog said 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 against the Authority under these circumstances, said ICASA

“This latest litigation attempt is characteristic of either impatience or a subtle desire to channel the authority’s decision-making outlook. We, however, remain steadfast and will defend the process against these challenges,” says ICASA Chairperson, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

The licensing of high demand spectrum is one of the most critical regulatory projects
ever undertaken by the Authority, backed by policy imperatives and the need to better the lives of all South Africans. The licensing process brings with it greater spin-offs for government, business and consumers in the form of faster broadband speed, economic recovery, investment and above all, a better quality of service and experience for the South African population.

“It is for these considerations that the Authority intends to defend this process to the end.”

According to Dr Modimoeng this process has been delayed since 2010.

”At this stage, industry players and all stakeholders need to reflect on the extent to which their commercial interests ought to override patriotic considerations. We believe that this
licensing process has been balanced, with no room for a winner-takes-all attitude,”
states Dr Modimoeng.

“Furthermore, the fact that the respective litigants are uncomfortable for
diametrically different reasons is indicative of a delicate balance that the Authority
Page 2 of 2 has struck in its decisions. The process cannot be tailored for the narrow fulfilment of one or two specific mobile operators.”

The release of the radio frequency spectrum has the potential to make a meaningful
contribution to the country’s ailing economy. In particular, the release of the spectrum is
critical to the country’s multifaceted efforts to not only return our economy to a better credit rating but to forge a new economy in a new global reality.

ICASA urged all South Africans not to be alarmed by the latest litigation. “The process for licensing of high demand spectrum will continue as planned unless there is a court order issued to delay or halt the process.”

“We will go to court and argue our case in defence and furtherance of ICASA’s public
interest mandate. We will do so because South Africans deserve to benefit from the
imminent release of the radio frequency spectrum through reduced data costs,
improved network quality and rural broadband coverage,” said Dr Modimoeng.


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