Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

4G/5G

Six companies want South African spectrum

Article Image
South Africa's telecoms regulator has revealed that six companies are interested in taking part in an upcoming spectrum auction, despite a legal challenge from one of the companies.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said in a statement it had received six submissions in response to its Invitation to Apply (ITA) for high-demand spectrum issued back in October 2020.

The six companies include South Africa's four main mobile operators: MTN, Vodacom, Telkom and Cell C, as well as data-only network Rain and pan-African telecoms group Liquid Telecom.

There was actually a seventh application from Women Building a Better Society (WBBS), but it missed the application deadline of 16h00 SAST on December 28, 2020 and was not accepted.

ICASA is making spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands available for assignment to qualifying applicants, and has promised it will hold the spectrum action no later than March 31, 2021.

"We are ready and committed in ensuring that we take the necessary care; and that the release of the spectrum and this process in general is indeed procedurally fair and non-discriminatory," said ICASA chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

Telkom heads to court

However one of the applicants, Telkom, has thrown a spanner in the works by heading to court to try stop the process.

On December 22, 2020 TechCentral reported that Telkom had filed papers in the high court in Pretoria to try to stop ICASA from proceeding with the spectrum licensing process.

Telkom's group executive for regulatory affairs and government relations, Siyabonga Mahlangu, told the SA publication that Telkom believes ICASA's ITA has fundamental flaws that could entrench the dominance of Vodacom and MTN.

One of Telkom's concerns is that ICASA issued the ITA including the 700MHz and 800MHz bands, which are not actually available as they are still being used by analogue television broadcasters in SA.

This is due to the much-delayed digital migration process after SA missed a June 2015 deadline for all countries to switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television.

Telkom's legal opposition does not come as a surprise as CEO Sipho Maseko had hinted that legal action was on the way back in November during his half-year results presentation.

"We believe that competition in the mobile sector is ineffective. The licensing of spectrum is one of the most potent tools in the hands of the regulator, to reset the imbalanced market structure and promote competition," Maseko said.

"We believe that ICASA as the regulator missed the opportunity to use the licensing of spectrum to address the monopolistic nature of the market."

ICASA fights back

On December 23 ICASA said in a statement it had engaged its legal representatives to oppose the Telkom court application.

"The Authority remains committed to defend this important process against any form of litigation, with a full appreciation of what the benefits of licensing high demand spectrum will be for consumers and the public at large. We are unwavering in this regard," said Modimoeng in a further statement on December 28.

The legal challenge could delay SA's spectrum licensing once again – local mobile operators have already been waiting many years for more high-demand radio frequency spectrum to be released by government.

They have had to refarm 3G spectrum to facilitate the rollout of 4G to consumers and have only been able to launch 5G due to temporary spectrum allocated by ICASA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related posts:

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.

Story

Afretec awards $3.3M in grants to African research teams

The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) has awarded grants worth $300,000 each to 11 university research teams across Africa to advance digital technologies.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

Story

Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.

Story

Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

Story

Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up