South Africa’s telecoms regulator ICASA reportedly postponed its proposed 4G spectrum auction to May next year, following fierce government opposition.
The auction, initially scheduled for January, has been under scrutiny ever since the regulator invited operators to submit their interest, and has seen the country’s telecoms ministry launch legal action.
The government accused the regulator of acting hastily in sending out invitations, arguing that it should have waited until the release of a policy on spectrum, which seeks to open the market up to new and smaller players.
According to Bloomberg, ICASA has now delayed the process, while also easing requirements for black ownership of bidding companies.
It remains unknown whether this will be enough to satisfy the government, but Bloomberg’s report notes that the regulator also plans to refund winners of the auction, if the sale is cancelled following legal action.
A case against the auction is scheduled to begin today.
ICASA proposed in July the sale of five blocks of spectrum at a reserve price of $220 million, which could have raised $1 billion.
The auction would have seen spectrum allocated to the highest bidders, but goes against the government’s plan to shake up the market.
Through new policy, it wants to encourage competition with smaller players, while reducing the dominance of market leaders Vodacom and MTN. And there has been talk about creating a national wholesale network to share spectrum equally.
However, frustrations have grown in the country for much needed spectrum as the industry waits for the government to finalise policy, which has reportedly been in the works for five years.