Telkom throws spectrum auction into disarray – again

Telkom has again filed papers to try to stop the upcoming spectrum auction, a move that will likely see the company heavily criticised for delaying a process that is crucial for economic growth and one championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Telkom has filed fresh papers with the high court because it is still not happy with the way Icasa is managing the spectrum auction process, including the invitation to operators to apply to participate in the auction.

The move comes despite wide-ranging discussion between Icasa and the industry – including Telkom – to resolve the concerns with the initial invitation to apply. The industry had been expecting the auction to proceed in March, according to Icasa’s timetable, but that is now in grave doubt.

Telkom’s latest move will be met with disappointment – if not outrage – by other telecommunications operators, including Vodacom and MTN, which are desperate to get access to additional spectrum to expand their 4G and 5G networks. In August last year, Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub accused Telkom of intentionally delaying the release of spectrum to further its own commercial interests.

According to a report by consumer tech website MyBroadband, Telkom is challenging the latest process on several grounds, including that spectrum in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands is still not available; that Icasa failed to consider the competitive landscape; and that Icasa’s decision to delay the licensing of the wholesale open-access network (an interlinked process). It’s also reportedly unhappy about the way Icasa plans to impose spectrum caps. A Telkom spokesman confirmed the company has filed papers at the high court but was not immediately able to provide further details.

Writing for TechCentral last month, Christoff Klein, MD of specialist consulting firm dotadvisors, said Telkom is “always” trying to “achieve through regulatory lobbying what it cannot achieve by means of competing in the market”.

Klein described Telkom as a “remnant of the past whose moderate success has been a function of having received not only more abundant spectrum, but spectrum in frequency bands that MTN and Vodacom were denied. If Telkom were as effective in the market as it is in its political lobbying efforts, it would not have to lobby.”  — © 2022 NewsCentral Media