South Africa’s telecoms ministry intends to launch legal action against the country’s industry regulator for launching a spectrum auction process “without consultation and prior notification to the government”.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) invited interested parties, likely to include operators MTN and Vodafone, to apply for high-speed broadband spectrum, earlier this month. The auction was expected to raise more than $1 billion, with five blocks up for sale each with a reserve price of ZAR3 billion ($210 million).
However, after studying the invitation, the country’s telecoms minister Siyabonga Cwele released a statement saying “there is presently no policy direction on spectrum that has been issued”, and it will now take legal action in response to the actions of ICASA.
In taking its decision to go ahead and by publishing its notice, ICASA failed to adhere to “the prescripts of the relevant policies, legislation and regulations” as well as those of the Electronic Communications Act, read the statement.
It added that it is concerned by “the haste with which ICASA is proceeding to dispose of the spectrum given that this spectrum will not immediately available”.
The notice to apply for spectrum came after a reported five year delay, caused by government deliberations over broadband policy, with spectrum expected to boost coverage across urban and rural areas of the country.
The government’s intervention means ICASA will not now be able to hold the auction next January, as previously planned, according to a Bloomberg source.