ICASA spectrum auction deemed unlawful

ICASA spectrum auction deemed unlawful

Mobile Spectrum Antenna NEW.jpeg

High Court judge Selby Baqwa says that he halted South Africa’s radio spectrum auction by regulator ICASA because the process was “unlawful and irrational”.

Judge Baqwa passed the order to pause the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) spectrum auction following complaints raised by South African operator Telkom and television broadcaster e.tv.

The details of his decision, nor of the complaints themselves have been shared but part of the dispute concerns ICASA’s decision to auction off 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum bands.

These frequencies are currently used by television broadcasters, as they haven’t yet migrated to digital from analogue. Once this migration to digital is completed, it will free up much needed spectrum for mobile operators.

In its defence, ICASA says that in the interim broadcasters and mobile operators could share the spectrum once the auction is over. A move that e.tv has argued is “was factually impossible” as it would affect its broadcast signalling and hinder its exclusive service offerings.

 This however is in direct contradiction to ICASA’s announcement in December when it said it would hold off on auctioning off the aforementioned spectrum until the migration was over. As such, ICASA amended the spectrum rules once the auction began without notice or consultation. A move that Judge Baqwa says was “unlawful and irrational”.

“ICASA’s change of stance is tantamount, to use a colloquial phrase, to changing horses midstream ... and unlawful,” said Baqwa.

He also criticised ICASA for not carrying out a competition assessment that would have informed its rules for assigning spectrum licences.

ICASA has confirmed it will appeal this decision.

Gift this article