MTN supports South Africa in ongoing auction

MTN Group opposed a legal challenge raised by Telkom South Africa to prevent the country’s communications regulator from holding a spectrum auction in March. 

Last week, Telkom reportedly filed an application asking a high court to review an invitation by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to participate in the auction, which outlines rules, spectrum bands, and license obligations.  

As such, Vodacom South Africa and MTN are keen for the auction to take place as quickly as possible.  

Bloomberg quoted MTN as noting that a successful spectrum auction “has the capacity to not only release much-needed funds into the national fiscus, but it will have an immediate impact on consumers.”  

In addition, MTN also noted that no additional spectrum was added to the industry for 14 years.  

The ICASA was forced to put an auction scheduled to begin in March 2021 on hold after a court injunction following a legal challenge by MTN, Telkom, and broadcaster  

On another note, the regulator now plans to auction 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5GHz frequencies in March 2022.  

It is worth mentioning that Telkom is alleging against the auction of sub-1GHz frequencies, which are not available yet. Meanwhile, it is also challenging the lack of clarity in licensing a controversial wholesale open-access network ICASA intends to make available to all of the country’s operators.  

The move by Telkom, which won a court order last year forcing the regulator to review its auction process and delay it to March this year, could potentially delay the country’s rollout of 5G and expansion of 4G capacity seen as critical for access to digital services and cheaper data costs.  

“While the current ITA (Invitation to Apply) is not perfect, we believe the regulator has tried to strike a delicate balance for all players,” Africa’s biggest telecoms company said in a statement, adding that it had filed court papers to oppose Telkom’s application.