Mmamoloko Kubayi, the Minister of Human Settlements for South Africa, has reportedly accused Telkom, which is partially state-owned, of holding South Africa ransom through its legal efforts over the country’s high-demand spectrum auction.
The aforementioned occurred following Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s attempts to persuade all parties to enable the auction to take place in March.
“From where we’re sitting, she [Ntshavheni] appears to be on track, and we hope Telkom doesn’t continue to hold the country ransom,” Kubayi told BMA Sources during an interview.
The lack of high-demand spectrum has already had a substantial impact on the country, according to Kubayi, and it is essential to expedite the auction process.
“You cannot have companies stifling the country’s development,” Kubayi remarked.
Kubayi added that the appropriate parties were in negotiations and hoped the discussions would not revert to court action.
Telkom, together with eMedia, the owner of E-tv, is at the centre of controversy over South Africa’s high-demand spectrum auction.
Telkom claims that some of the valuable sub-1GHz spectrum up for auction is still occupied by obsolete analogue TV signals, making any investment in network equipment using this frequency exceedingly risky.
For example, Lebo Masalesa, Telkom’s head of network planning and engineering, noted that when Telkom attempted to roll out more network capacity in Bloemfontein, the spectrum industry regulator ICASA had indicated was available turned out to be significantly obstructed.
Another primary concern is that eMedia, the owner of E-tv, has an ongoing court case against the communications minister and ICASA over the switch-off of analogue TV signals, which the High Court will only hear in mid-March after the spectrum auction is scheduled to conclude.
Telkom further claims that ICASA has not fully assessed the impact of the auction on competition in the South African telecommunications industry.