Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom, has warned that the looming legal battle over the country’s long-awaited spectrum auction will have a significant impact on the economy if not resolved quickly. The Sunday Times reports.
Telkom has applied for an urgent ban to prevent ICASA from continuing the auction, but MTN, Vodacom and Rain have denied this.
The key to Telkom’s application is that the auction will include the 700-800 MHz frequency, which is still available to broadcasters – ie those who acquire this frequency will not be able to use it immediately.
This radio frequency band is the most sought after by mobile operators. It provides better indoor penetration and is used to cover larger geographical areas, making it useful in extending coverage to rural areas.
Although Telkom has significantly more frequencies than MTN or Vodacom in general, it does not have access to frequencies below 1 000 MHz, which is why the problems with this frequency are a particular problem for the company.
Joosub argued that the auction is critical to improving South Africa’s economy and that the delays will have serious economic consequences.
“These ongoing delays are slowing South Africa’s development and come at a time when the need for additional spectrum is becoming increasingly desperate,” Joosub said.
“It’s no secret that telecommunications infrastructure is key to the growth of any economy. This latest impasse must be resolved as a matter of urgency, or the financial opportunity will be lost in the second year.”
Telkom has other concerns for the auctioning of spectrum, including the maximum frequency of 187 MHz per network operator.
Telkom already owns about 142 MHz for cellular technology, which means that Telkom would only be allowed to acquire about 45 MHz under the current auction rules.
“Icasa’s mistake is that it assumes that the spectrum in the hands of each player is the same value and has the same impact on the market,” Siyabonga Mahlangu, Telkom’s head of regulatory affairs, told MyBroadband.
Mahlangu stressed that the ITU is proposing that mobile operators need 80-100 MHz frequencies to provide 5G services.
As meeting this minimum requirement would require an additional frequency of 62 MHz, the rules make it impossible for Telkom to launch efficient 5G services.
Icasa has criticized Telkom’s efforts to halt the spectrum auction.
It said that “narrow and selfish commercial interests” should give way to overriding public interest in cheaper data, efficient and reliable connectivity, and high-speed broadband.
Competing mobile networks have also expressed contempt for Telkom’s tactics.
“Delaying the process is not in the interests of competition or consumers, especially because of the demand caused by network migration, and it needs to be combined,” said Cell C lawyer Zahir Williams.
“We cannot repeat the year 2021, when the whole process was delayed by another full year, and after 14 years, when no frequencies have been added to the industry,” said Charles Molapisi, CEO of MTN SA.
In addition, Joshua has previously charged Telkom, which is doing its best, ordered the postponement of the spectrum auction because it wants to maintain its competitive advantage as the operator with the most frequent and widest fiber network footprint. MyBroadband