South Africa’s telecoms regulator pushes back spectrum auction again

PUBLISHED: Mon, 22 Feb 2021 16:20:47 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 22 (Reuters) – South Africa’s telecoms regulator on Monday pushed back the announcement of the qualifying bidders for its long-awaited auction of new spectrum by a month to March 23, just a week before the sale had been due to be completed.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said it was completing a contract with the external auctioneer who will oversee and manage the process, and the auction would now start on March 31 rather than finishing then.

Allocation of high-demand spectrum is seen as key to expanding broadband services, especially 5G, in Africa’s most industrialised economy, where the high cost of telecommunications is a barrier to doing business.

Telecom operators have been waiting over a decade for ICASA to release new spectrum licences but Telkom, which is partly state-owned, and MTN Group have challenged the auction process in court.

“We remain confident that we are not off the track but in a better position to complete the licensing of high-demand spectrum,” ICASA’s Chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng said.

Telkom is seeking an order to halt the auction and there has not been a judgment in its case yet. MTN’s separate challenge has yet to be heard in court.

Operators including MTN, Telkom, Vodacom, Cell C, Rain networks and Liquid Telecoms have applied for licences.

The spectrum auction process was pushed back three months in September due to a delay in issuing invitations to apply. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by David Clarke)

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