South Africa to refund winners if spectrum auction blocked

South Africa to refund winners if spectrum auction blocked

The South African regulator is continuing its battle with the government by saying that it will refund winners of a spectrum auction next year if the sale is blocked by the minister.

The telecoms minister, Siyabonga Cwele, started action against the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) in August, saying the regulator was usurping the government’s policy-making role.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is due to start hearing the action today. Incumbent operator Telkom has also threatened to sue Icasa.

But Icasa has postponed the planned auction from January 2017 to May. It plans to sell five blocks of spectrum at starting prices from $220 million each.

The government said that the auction would favour major operators, such as MTN and Vodacom, and it wants open access spectrum, to be shared by all operators in the market. The minister aid in August that he was planning a white paper on the policy and complained that Icasa’s auction plans undermined the emerging strategy.

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