Cell C supports action by Minister Cwele to challenge ICASA over 4G licenses

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Cell C, the country’s third biggest mob ile phone operator supports the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele’s plans to review ICASA’s decision to invite telecommunications firms to apply for the high demand radio frequency spectrum.

On July 15, ICASA today officially invited telcos such as Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom, etc, to apply for 4G licenses to provide much-needed broadband services.

Applicants will be vying to apply for the radio frequency spectrum licenses within the designated range: the 2.6GHz band and the 800 MHz band and the 700MHz band for the purposes of providing national broadband wireless access services.

“After considering the Invitation to Apply and on the advice of senior counsel, the Minister intends taking legal action to review the actions of ICASA,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Cell C’s chief legal officer,  Graham Mackinnon, said in a statement on Tuesday that the company’s concern that ICASA had issued the ITA without obtaining buy-in from all stakeholders, especially the DTPS, now appears to be well-founded.

“If due process has not been followed, then Cell C supports the Minister’s efforts to ensure that this is done. Spectrum is an incredibly valuable national resource that urgently needs to be unlocked for the benefit of every South African and hence all the necessary boxes should have been ticked before issuing the ITA,” said Mackinnon.

He added in addition, upon a closer reading of the ITA, it seems that ICASA has not taken into account the future competitive landscape of the telecommunications industry in South Africa.

“The ITA contemplates two very attractive spectrum lots relative to other lots that, on an auction, would go to the bidders with the deepest pockets. This would favour and further entrench the current Vodacom/MTN duopoly.The ITA is also a final document – in other words it does not seem to be capable of being amended to take into account the concerns of industry and other stakeholders,” he said.

“”Apart from certain contradictions and inadequacies in the spectrum auction process detailed in the ITA, the uncertainty as to how the Lot A spectrum will be awarded and the actual date of availability of the 700 MHz and 800 MHz spectrum bands, makes it difficult for interested parties to properly evaluate their participation in the proposed auction.””

Cell C added that all of these factors suggest that the Minister may be correct in his assessment that ICASA has acted with undue haste and did not properly consult before issuing the ITA.

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