ICASA has resolved to exhaust all legal avenues in respect of the planned spectrum auction, the Chairperson of ICASA, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, said on Tuesday.
Yesterday, Telkom and e.tv secured an interdict against communications regulator ICASA, preventing the spectrum auction planned for later this month from taking place until the merits of their case can be heard by the high court.
The auction was scheduled to take place by no later than 31 March 2021 — this will now not happen.
“We have never been so close to licensing high demand spectrum. We were literally
three (3) weeks away from auctioning this much-needed resource that would have
seen South Africans benefit through this process in terms of reduced data costs and
improvement in quality of service and experience,” says Dr Modimoeng.
“In commitment to our public interest mandate, the Council of ICASA has resolved to exhaust all legal avenues in respect of this process.”
The High Court has issued an order, without reasons, interdicting and restraining ICASA from proceeding with the auction process pending the final determination of Telkom’s application to review ICASA’s decision to publish the two invitation to apply.
“The effect of this order is that ICASA cannot at this stage proceed with the auction process and the timetable for that process will have to be revised,” said ICASA.
However, Dr Modimoeng expressed his utmost confidence in the judiciary and though dismayed by the decision, remains resolute that the licensing process shall in due course be finalised.
He added that the court interdict is not the end of the road for ICASA but the very beginning.
“We were here in 2016 when an interdict on a similar matter was issued,
and that led the Authority to enter into an Out-of-Court settlement, withdrawal of the
ITA and other forms of mediation. Such interventions took us nowhere. We are not
going back there,” he said.
“It is our considered view that the best option is to exhaust all possible legal avenues at our disposal, including appeals so to ensure that this sensitive licensing process is not only defined by industry players but also by the public interest. We, however, await the reasons for the judgement.”
ICASA said it has also taken note of the fact that the primary litigant in this matter
(Telkom); was also one of the three applicants in the 2016 litigation.
Telkom’s opposition to this licensing process has therefore been consistent, said ICASA.
“The delay in the licensing of high demand spectrum has huge implications in terms of competition in the mobile services market as well as reduction of cost to communicate particularly data costs for consumers and business,” the regulator said.
“For as long as there is an interdict in place, South Africans will continue to bear the brunt for high data costs, ineffective competition and a deprived economy. But ICASA remains confident and forward-looking to ensure that South Africans ultimately benefit from this licensing process.”
Telkom said it welcomes the judgement of the Gauteng High Court to interdict the spectrum licensing process. This decision affirms our view that there are concerns regarding the lawfulness of the ICASA process.
Dr. Siyabonga Mahlangu, Telkom Group Executive for Regulatory Affairs said whilst we wait for the court to hear the review, we implore ICASA to engage and explore a path to licence spectrum lawfully, rationally, and expeditiously.
“We hope ICASA will take this opportunity to reflect on the issues raised by Telkom and others,” he concluded.