Telkom, a South African telecommunications company, has filed High Court petitions to prevent the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from going through with the sought-after radio frequency spectrum auction in March.
Telkom has criticised ICASA’s approach to licensing the spectrum, arguing that the regulator has failed to address many of the issues that plagued its prior attempt.
ICASA’s latest attempt to license high-demand spectrum, according to Telkom regulatory affairs chief Siyabonga Mahlangu, has multiple flaws. Firstly the crucial analogue television spectrum is still unavailable, as eMedia’s pending court case against the Minister of Communications and ICASA will not be heard until mid-March. Furthermore, the above mentioned is accompanied by spectrum caps, a lack of consideration for the competitive landscape and delays in the national wireless open-access network (WOAN).
One of Telkom’s primary concerns is that E-tv is sitting on spectrum the provider desperately wants because it refuses to migrate from analogue terrestrial TV technology by March 2022.
MTN, Vodacom, and Cell C all have frequencies below 1 gigahertz (GHz), whereas Telkom does not.
Cellular towers with a sub-1GHz spectrum can cover a wider area and better indoor penetration. However, providers must pair the sub-1GHz spectrum with a higher frequency spectrum to enhance network capacity in congested metropolitan areas.
On the other hand, Telkom claims that it is at a disadvantage compared to its competitors without access to sub-1GHz, particularly when it comes to rural coverage.
The spectrum auction has been scheduled for March 8, 2022, by ICASA. However, the hearing for eMedia’s case against the minister and regulator has been set for March 14–15.
The unresolved sub-1GHz question, according to Mahlangu, means going into the spectrum auction with a lot of uncertainty.