Telkom South Africa CEO Sipho Maseko slammed the country’s industry regulator for tending “to make rules on the run”, in light of a planned spectrum auction which continues to come under fire.
Speaking at the operator’s annual general meeting, Maseko said there were “fundamental problems” with the auction process, and how regulator ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) set out requirements in its Invitation to Apply (ITA), reported TechCentral.
In particular, he took issue with a specific term set by the regulator requiring a “30 per cent threshold around black economic empowerment in order to vote”.
“We don’t know what is the logic that ICASA followed with regard to this specific requirement,” he said.
His comments come after the country’s telecoms ministry filed a legal suit against ICASA, in an attempt to block the proposed sale of spectrum worth more than $1 billion.
It argued that it had not set policy direction for the spectrum, while warning that the spectrum was not immediately available, among other factors.
Maseko confirmed Telkom was also mulling legal action.
And in a broader attack against the regulator, the Telkom chief hit out at ICASA’s decision to clear Vodacom’s acquisition of Neotel (which has now been abandoned), a deal which was also challenged by Telkom and other operators in courts, as well as regulation on call termination rates.
The issue of the spectrum auction followed a pattern of decisions by ICASA that were “disconcerting” and “worrisome”, said the Telkom chief.
“It’s how the regulator chooses an approach to manage these issues in a way that is not consistent with how a regulator needs to behave,” he said. “Even with this ITA, even if you put aside substantive issues, we have a number of process issues. We will take the right legal action.”
He continued that the industry was in part to blame because it hired people away from ICASA and the telecoms ministry, which sets policy in the industry.
“You end up with critical pillars of policy and regulation being weak,” he said.
The spectrum auction issue flared up after ICASA invited interested parties, such as Telkom, Vodacom and MTN, to apply for spectrum, set at a reserve price of ZAR3 billion ($210 million) last month, with the hope of holding the auction in January next year.