Vodacom and MTN join Telkom in ICASA spectrum lawsuit

19 October 2021 | Saf Malik

Cover

South African telcos Vodacom and MTN have joined Telkom SA’s case against the country’s regulator ICASA over plans to remove temporarily allocated spectrum.

Last year, mobile operators in South Africa were granted additional spectrum as part of a relief plan during the Covid-19 pandemic but in August, ICASA ruled that the spectrum must be returned by the end of November. 

All three of South Africa’s largest telcos are pursuing legal action against ICASA and arguments from the operators are based on the large numbers of South African staff who are still working from home and need extra bandwidth. 

"The main thrust of our argument is that while the National State of Disaster remains in force, the temporary spectrum cannot be withdrawn," said Vodacom’s spokesperson Byron Kennedy on Saturday.

On 13 October, ICASA said it would oppose Telkom’s application to the court, claiming that many people have returned to their offices as the pandemic has eased.

A High Court hearing has been set for 26 October.

ICASA had come under fire earlier this year when its spectrum auction was deemed unlawful by the South African High Court.  

An order to pause the Independent Communications Authority of ICASA's spectrum auction was passed following complaints raised by Telkom.

Part of the dispute concerned ICASA’s decision to auction off 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum bands.