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South Africa's president weighs in on spectrum disputes

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has weighed into the country's ongoing legal disputes over the auction and use of spectrum.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has been prevented from proceeding with its auction due to legal action initiated by mobile operators.

As Capacity reported in March, ICASA was ordered to halt the country's spectrum auction, with a judge deeming it unlawful the following week. That same hearing also saw Judge Baqwa pass an order to pause the auction following complaints by Telkom and television broadcaster e.tv.

Speaking to Cape Town lawmakers yesterday, Ramaphosa said: "The legal case that is under way threatens to delay the progress that we have all anticipated.

“I appeal to all stakeholders to speedily resolve the litigation as soon as possible to enable the licensing process to be concluded for the benefit of all South Africans.”

Ramaphosa made similar calls in February during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), in which he set out the country's digital migration plans for television services.

ICASA published its invitation to apply for both the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) and the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) spectrum, also known as high demand spectrum, in early October.

Since then, MTN and Telkom have both brought legal action against the regulator. In January, MTN Group asked the Gauteng High court to scrap or review the auction process following similar petitions from Telkom in December.

According to reports, MTN's concern is that the prioritisation of smaller operators could put it at a disadvantage when bidding. Telkom's argument is that the two bandwidths it wants are currently occupied by broadcasters. Telkom's successful court ruling in March led the process being suspended.

Telkom, MTN and ICASA have yet to issue statements.

 

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