According to BMA Sources, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub has cautioned that the looming court battle over the country’s much-anticipated spectrum auction will have a significant economic impact if it is not resolved urgently.
MTN, Vodacom, and Rain have contested Telkom’s application for an urgent interdict to prevent the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from proceeding with the auction.
One of Telkom’s key arguments is that the auction covers the 700MHz to 800MHz band, which is currently used by broadcasters. This means that those who acquire this spectrum will not have immediate access.
For mobile providers, the radio frequency spectrum is one of the most sought-after. This is because it has better indoor penetration and can cover larger geographical areas, making it useful in expanding coverage to rural areas.
While Telkom has significantly more spectrum than MTN or Vodacom, it lacks access to spectrum below 1,000MHz, which is why difficulties with this frequency are a particular source of contention for the company.
The auction, according to Joosub, is vital to the improvement of South Africa’s economy, and any delays will have profound economic implications.
“These persistent delays are stalling South Africa’s development at a time when the demand for more spectrum is becoming increasingly desperate,” Joosub said.
“It is no secret that telecommunications infrastructure is critical to a country’s economic growth and must resolve the latest impasse as soon as possible, or else another year of economic opportunity will be squandered.”
Competing mobile networks have also criticised Telkom’s approach.
Furthermore, Joosub has previously accused Telkom of doing everything possible to postpone the spectrum auction to maintain its competitive advantage as the operator with the most spectrum and the most extensive fibre network footprint.