Two year long legal battle over spectrum auction between Icasa and DTPS minister ends with a fizzle

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Back in 2016 the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) sent out an invitation to apply (ITA) for high demand spectrum.

At the time the association invited companies to apply for licenses in the 700MHz, 800Mhz and 2 600MHz bands. Companies would have had to bid for the spectrum to increase coverage in rural and urban areas.

Shortly after announcing the ITA the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), in particular minister Siyabonga Cwele, said it would pursue legal action as the correct processes and procedures were not followed by Icasa.

Today, Icasa and the DTPS announced that this two-year old matter would be settled following statements from President Cyril Ramaphosa last week regarding the allocation of high-demand spectrum.

The settlement will see Icasa cancelling the initial ITA and Cwele dropping his legal challenge.

“This settlement agreement is in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to “initiate the process for the allocation of high-demand radio spectrum to enable licensing” which was made on Friday, 21 September 2018 in the announcement of the economic stimulus and economic recovery plan,” reads a joint statement from Icasa and Cwele.

The joint statement goes on to state that the minister will now direct Icasa to issue a new ITA, accept and consider applications for an electronic communications network service license and radio frequency spectrum licence to provide wholesale open access, while ensuring its sustainability and viability, taking into account the outcomes of the study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“The Authority is indeed pleased that the impasse over the licensing of high demand spectrum has finally been resolved. It is our concerted view that the settlement of the 2016 litigation and pending consultation process on the Policy Direction provides much needed certainty for the sector to thrive. The Authority will ensure that it executes its mandate in a manner that promotes competition, facilitates transformation of the sector and provides a regulatory environment that encourages investment in the sector,” Icasa chairperson Rubben Mohlaloga said in the statement.

While this settlement makes the initial impasse seem trivial, DTPS was adamant that Icasa had not followed the correct procedure back in 2016.

The good news however is that DTPS and Icasa now seem to be aligned in their objectives.

When exactly the ITA will open remains to be seen but we reckon it won’t be long now given that the ball was already put in motion two years ago.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.