October 18, 2021

Icasa to fight Telkom over spectrum withdrawal

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Communications regulator Icasa said on Wednesday that it will oppose Telkom’s court application that seeks to stop it from withdrawing temporarily assigned spectrum at the end of next month.

Icasa said in a brief statement that it “intends to oppose the litigation”, but it didn’t provide any information on what grounds it intends to oppose it.

TechCentral reported last week that Telkom would take Icasa to court to stop the planned withdrawal of the spectrum, which was issued due to the Covid-19 pandemic as people were forced to work from home, saying the move would disrupt the provision of services and harm consumers.

Icasa originally made the spectrum available on an emergency basis in April 2020 to interested licensed operators. It extended the allocation of the temporary spectrum on several occasions. However, it said on 31 August that it intended to withdraw the spectrum on 30 November 2021 as it was never meant to be licensed in perpetuity.

(Spectrum withdrawal) will have a significantly prejudicial effect on Telkom, other mobile operators, the greater public and the economy

The regulator said it was worried that extending the granting of the spectrum indefinitely would distort the market and was unfair to licensees that chose not to apply for it back in 2020. It also suggested it was no longer needed as many people had returned to their offices and were therefore no longer placing extra demands on mobile networks.

In his founding affidavit to the high court in Pretoria, Telkom group executive for regulatory affairs and government relations Siyabonga Mahlangu said the “rationale and need for temporary spectrum persist”.

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Icasa, Mahlangu said:

  • Failed to consult the public, including Telkom and its customers, before taking the decision;
  • Took into account irrelevant considerations and disregarded relevant ones; and
  • Took a decision that was not rationally connected to the purpose for which it was taken.

“Should Icasa not be directed to extend the licensing of temporary radio frequency spectrum or refrain from requiring current holders of licences to cease using their licences, it will have a significantly prejudicial effect on Telkom, other mobile operators, the greater public and the functioning of the national economy,” he said.

Duncan McLeod is editor of TechCentral, on which this article was first published here.

© 2021 NewsCentral Media

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