Telkom South Africa reportedly raised a legal challenge to prevent the country’s communications regulator from holding a spectrum auction in March, in a move which could further delay 5G rollout following a similar challenge in 2021.

Court papers seen by Reuters show Telkom filed an application asking a high court to review an invitation from the Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to participate in the auction, which outlines rules, spectrum bands and licence obligations.

The papers include a clause which prevents ICASA from holding the auction, currently scheduled for the end of March, until the review is heard.

Telkom described the auction process as unlawful, illegal, irrational and unreasonable, due to the fact the invite is “tainted by a number of reviewable errors”.

Among its grievances, Telkom argues against the auction of the sub-1GHz frequency band as it is not available yet. It is also challenging the lack of clarity in licensing a Wholesale Open Access Network ICASA intends to make available to all of the country’s operators so they do not have to invest in infrastructure separately.

If allowed to go ahead, Telkom said the auction will have “enduring negative consequences on the mobile market” including, but not limited to, reinforcing “the anticompetitive structure of the mobile market”.

ICASA faced a similar situation in 2021 and was forced to put an auction scheduled to begin in March on ice after a court put an injunction on the process due to a legal challenge raised by Telkom, rival MTN Group and broadcaster