Spectrum auction raises more money than expected

The main stage of South Africa’s auction of mobile broadband spectrum, which started on Thursday, will continue into next week, communications regulator Icasa said after close of business on Friday.

The regulator said the auction has already raised more than the R8-billion originally projected.

Telkom and Rain secured access to spectrum during an opt-in round of the spectrum on Tuesday that netted R2.7-billion for the national fiscus: Rain agreed to pay R1.15-billion for access to two chunks of 10MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band and for 10MHz of the 2.6GHz band, while Telkom agreed to cough up R1.5-billion for two chunks of 10MHz in the 800MHz band, TechCentral reported.

The entire exercise could, however, turn out to be academic as a Telkom court case against the process – set to be heard in mid-April – could force Icasa back to the drawing board, if the telecoms operator lobbies the court successfully.

“Icasa is pleased to announce that the auction is proceeding very well and can confirm that we have gradually passed estimated R8-billion in proceeds. The auction will proceed on Monday, 14 March, at 9am,” the regulator said in a statement on Friday evening.

“Generally, spectrum auctions of this nature can take weeks to clear. However, the authority will announce the winning bids attained by each bidder at the end of the auction stage.”

Separately, Icasa announced that it has decided to join in the legal action brought by e.tv parent eMedia Holdings against communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and will support the minister’s position in court. eMedia is suing to stop Ntshavheni from switching off analogue television broadcasts at the end of the month, as she has promised to do, arguing that the country is not ready for the switch-off and that its commercial interests will be prejudiced.

Lost audience share

Already, industry data from Tams shows that the SABC has lost significant audience share in provinces where its analogue signals have been switched off – with e.tv the net beneficiary. eMedia has warned that switching off analogue signals will be to the severe detriment of free-to-air broadcasting in South Africa.

eMedia has argued that Ntshavheni is rushing the digital migration process and that more time is needed to ensure that terrestrial TV broadcasters’ interests aren’t materially impacted.

“Icasa has noted the switch-off date announced by the minister and is in full support of government’s commitment towards the implementation and completion of the digital migration process across the country,” the regulator said in its statement.

“South Africa has been lagging behind and this process must be concluded sooner rather than later, and Icasa is calling on all broadcasters and stakeholders in general to support the conclusion of this process.”

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni … forging ahead

The high court will hear the eMedia case on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Icasa also said in its statement on Friday that it has “noted” the announcement by the cabinet that government will no longer seek the licensing of a wholesale open-access network – a move that, in effect, will see the controversial Woan project shelved.

“The authority had already started the process of revisiting the Woan and its related business case and will consider the policymaker’s (government’s) latest position on this matter,” Icasa said.  – © 2022 NewsCentral Media

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