The Progressive Blacks in ICT (PBICT), a lobby group, today took a swipe at the ‘elite privileged black consortium’ for its stance in the debate about the licensing process for Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN).
Late last year, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) published an invitation to invest in the country’s planned WOAN, a creation of a private sector-led wholesale operator to compete with Vodacom and MTN.
The South African government anticipates the WOAN will eventually lead to lower mobile data retail prices.
It is envisaged that WOAN will bring much-needed competition into the services layer of the telecoms sector.
Recently there have been court cases initiated by Telkom and MTN over ICASA’s 5G spectrum auction plan. Reacting to these disputes, PBCIT said the ‘elite privileged black consortium’ does not understand why the spectrum auction was such “a burning issue”.
“Why do they want to hog the spectrum only for themselves?” asked Leon Rolls, PBICT president.
“Over the last decade they have built empires now they want to close the gate. To them we say ‘John vuli gate’ data must fall.”
MTN is taking ICASA to court over the spectrum auction process earmarked for March.
MTN is asking the high court in Pretoria to review, correct, or set aside two decisions made by the regulator related to the spectrum auction process.
In December, Telkom filed an urgent court application saying it considers the regulator’s spectrum auction process “irregular and unlawful”.
On Friday ICASA said it would oppose MTN’s court action.
ICASA Chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, said: “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.”
Today the ICT lobby group said it would join ICASA in objecting to these “monopolisers and elites” who are opposing the WOAN.
“The WOAN process must continue,” said the PBICT president.
“We also urge ICASA to stick to the objective above all and award the WOAN based on the most socially viable proposal that will see the reduction of data, create jobs, introduce new black entrants into the market with the most favourable transformation agenda,” said Rolls.
“We are also equally surprised at the elite, privileged black consortium that is joining the party, the question on our mind is why?” said the PBICT president.
“These people had the opportunity to transform the sector and create opportunities for our people.
“Some were even given funding and licenses, others worked as director generals and CEOs but they only filled their pockets,” said Rolls .
He said these same individuals whom he did not name were again trying to use the spectrum auction process to fill their pockets.
ICASA said it will allocate 80MHz of spectrum to the WOAN.
The WOAN will not be required to participate in the upcoming auction.
Analysts warn the implementation of WOAN will see SA forge ahead with an experiment that has no successful precedent anywhere in the world.