Telkom offers withdrawal of spectrum interdict - but there's a catch

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Telkom has tabled a new proposal to peers in a bid to hasten its litigation process against the spectrum auction.
Telkom has tabled a new proposal to peers in a bid to hasten its litigation process against the spectrum auction.
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Telkom on Tuesday proposed a withdrawal of its urgent interdict against SA's spectrum auction - on the condition that other companies that are party to the case agree to an expedited review of the merits of its application.

This includes the lawfulness of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa)'s design of the licensing of spectrum and its justification, the telecom company said in a statement. 

Spectrum refers to the radio frequencies needed for cellphone companies to transmit data. These frequencies are also used by TV and other services, like GPS.

Last year, Telkom launched legal action against Icasa, asking the court to review and set aside the regulator's decision to issue an Invitation to Apply (ITA) on 10 December. It contended that the process would entrench the position of MTN and Vodacom.

Part A of Telkom's application requests the court to urgently suspend the ITA to give the court time to deliberate on Part B of Telkom's application - which focuses on the merits of its arguments against the ITA.

On Tuesday, Telkom said it had sent a letter to its opponents in the case, stating that it is prepared to remove Part A of its application from the court roll if the parties are open to an expedited review of Part B.

"The respondents are still considering Telkom’s proposal and, as such, the matter is still on the court roll for Tuesday, 25 January. A decision to withdraw it depends on the response from the parties and the directions that the court may give," Telkom said.

"This is on condition that the review is heard before the finalisation of the spectrum auction process or if Icasa is prepared to move the dates of auction finalisation to await the court judgment."

Telkom’s head of communications, Nomalungelo Faku, explained that if the court sets down the matter on a date that falls after the auction process is meant to be held, Icasa would then need to shift the auction date to accommodate the finalisation of the Telkom matter.

"We have always said that our core issue is about Part B. We don’t want to submit to an auction process [and] then the court sets the process aside, which means everyone's money and time would have been wasted. That is why we have gone for a two-part application."

Icasa confirmed the receipt of Telkom's letter but declined to give further details. Telkom's application to interdict the auction is being opposed by MTN, Vodacom and Rain.

Icasa had set the auction date for 8 March.  

The previous auction in 2021 was scuppered by litigation, as Telkom and obtained an interdict against the process which has faced several administrative and legal stumbling blocks. 

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