Communications regulator Icasa on Thursday decided to extend the emergency allocation of temporary spectrum under the Covid-19 state of disaster regulations until the end of August.

Icasa had threatened to withdraw the spectrum allocations to the likes of Vodacom, MTN and Telkom at the end of this month but has now decided to extend this by three months.

It said it has completed a review of the ICT Covid-19 regulations after soliciting inputs from the industry. It used these inputs in reaching its decision to extend the spectrum arrangements.

“The authority hopes that all key stakeholders will use this period to find a resolution to the spectrum litigation impasse,” it said. Icasa was meant to license 4G- and 5G-suitable spectrum at the end of March but was interdicted from doing so through a court order secured by Telkom and

Icasa chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng said active litigants – they also include MTN South Africa – should “participate in the ongoing settlement negotiations in order to resolve the matter”.

Temporary arrangement

“Unfortunately, at some stage we will not be able to continually extend these temporary spectrum assignments when a more permanent licensing route is struck through litigation. We need to come to the negotiations with well-meaning intentions, as soon as possible, to resolve this ongoing legal standoff,” Modimoeng said.

“We cannot perpetuate a pandemic-specific temporary arrangement to a point where it amounts to a backdoor spectrum licensing regime. High-demand spectrum ought to be licensed in a transparent and competitive manner; hence any other way is unjustifiable in the long run.”

Icasa first published the ICT Covid-19 national disaster regulations on 6 April 2020.  — © 2021 NewsCentral Media