Government to fight Telkom in court over spectrum

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has filed papers at the high court in Pretoria stating her intention to oppose Telkom’s application to interdict communications regulator Icasa over the upcoming spectrum auction.

The move comes despite government holding more than 40% of Telkom’s equity, a stake that previous ministers in the portfolio have described as “strategic” as it gives government sway over important issues affecting the company and the sector — and has been given as a reason for not fully privatising it.

The minister filed the notice to oppose, which TechCentral has seen, on Friday. MTN South Africa and Rain have also filed papers saying they will oppose Telkom’s application.

Telkom brought the urgent application earlier this week, seeking to interdict Icasa from proceeding with the auction, prompting the regulator to accuse the company of acting in its own narrow commercial self-interest by heading to court for the second time in a year over the auction.

Telkom group executive for regulatory affairs and government relations Siyabonga Mahlangu told TechCentral on Tuesday that the company is challenging the latest process on several grounds. These include that spectrum in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands is still not available (and might not be available for some time); that Icasa failed to consider the competitive landscape in crafting the rules around the spectrum auction; and that Icasa’s decision to delay the licensing of the wholesale open-access network (an interlinked process) has created uncertainty. Telkom is also unhappy about the way Icasa plans to impose spectrum caps.

Ahead of her notice to oppose, Ntshavheni said she would approach Telkom with a view to reaching an out-of-court settlement so as not to delay the planned spectrum auction, which is still pencilled in for March.

Ntshavheni said Telkom did not afford her the opportunity to resolve “whatever concerns” the company may have with the current invitation to apply to participate in the auction.  – © 2022 NewsCentral Media

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