Ramaphosa chides telecom operators for slowing broadband rollout

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
PHOTO: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa hit out at mobile-phone companies for bringing legal action against plans to issue more broadband spectrum, urging them to resolve the matter for the benefit of the country.

MTN, which has the second-most subscribers in the country, and Telkom both appealed to courts about how the regulator is arranging the auction, which was announced in October after years of delays.

"The legal case that is under way threatens to delay the progress that we have all anticipated," Ramaphosa told lawmakers in Cape Town on Thursday. "I appeal to all stakeholders to speedily resolve the litigation as soon as possible to enable the licensing process to be concluded for the benefit of all South Africans."

South African market leader Vodacom, which hasn’t objected to the process, and MTN have long called for more spectrum to expand their data services and boost revenue, while the government sees the move as a way to attract investment and help revive a moribund economy. Both sides say the plan will bring down prices — a matter that’s led to regulator censure and protests from users.

When the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa released the terms of the auction, MTN executives didn’t like what they saw. The Johannesburg-based company argues that prioritising smaller operators means the carrier will be shut out of bidding for new 5G spectrum.

Telkom's issue is that two bandwidths the company covets are occupied by broadcasters and there’s no plan to open them up.

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