Spectrum licensing: MTN and Cell C want Icasa to publish a draft document to 'avoid surprises'

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MTN and Cell C want Icasa to issue a draft document for the licensing of spectrum.
MTN and Cell C want Icasa to issue a draft document for the licensing of spectrum.

MTN and Cell C have urged the Independent Communication Authority of SA (Icasa) to release a draft of its spectrum licensing application for scrutiny by telecommunication companies before a final document is made public.

The companies made the call to Icasa on Friday during a dialogue to discuss the information memorandum for the licensing of spectrum. The authority is in the process of amending the Invitation to Apply (ITA) for licensing of radio frequency bands.

Last month, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria set aside a decision by Icasa to publish an ITA for spectrum after the regulator and communication companies in the matter failed to reach a settlement over the terms of the auction.

MTN SA's general manager for legal and regulatory affairs, Moses Mashisane, said releasing a draft would prevent surprises in the final document and allow contentious issues to be ironed out.

"If a draft ITA [were] published, I think this licensing process would be over by now," he said, referring to the previous ITA issued in October last year.

Icasa now expects that the spectrum will be allocated to local companies by the end of March 2022. That will be a year after the auction was supposed to be completed – it has since been halted by legal action from Telkom, e.tv and MTN.

"We also implore you to consider issuing a draft ITA," said Cell C's regulatory executive head, Themba Phiri.

According to Phiri, the issuing a draft ITA would be in the interest of fairness.

The new time frame for the auction now includes a closing date to receive new and revised applications to take part in the auction, which is set for 31 January 2022. The announcement of qualified bidders will take place on 21 February, with the auction process earmarked for March.

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