The South African regulator’s approach to auctioning the spectrum was illegal, the court said

A South African judge said he stopped the radio spectrum auction scheduled this month by regulator ICASA because he found the trial illegal and irrational.

High Court Judge Selby Baqwa passed an order on Monday banning the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from proceeding with the auction, pending the hearing on the disputes raised by the telecommunications operator Telkom and by the broadcaster e.tv. The reasons for his decision were not contained in the order shared at the time with journalists.

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At the heart of the controversy is ICASA’s decision to auction off the 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum bands, currently used by broadcasters, prior to the migration of broadcast services to digital. from the analog was completed. Migration will release much needed spectrum for mobile operators.

Last month ICASA argued in court that mobile operators would be able to share bands with broadcasters immediately after the auction. But Judge Baqwa said in his view, seen by Reuters on Friday, that ICASA had contradicted itself because it said in December that the availability of those bands would be delayed and subject to completion of the migration.

Eventually ICASA changed the rules after the process began, without prior notice to interested parties or proper consultation, which was unfair and irrational, Baqwa said. “The change of position of the ICASA is equivalent, to use a colloquial phrase, to changing horses halfway … and illegal,” he continued.

The E.tv experts had argued in their affidavit that “it was in fact impossible” to share spectrum with mobile operators as this would interfere with its broadcast signal and dilute its commercial exclusivity. Baqwa also criticized ICASA for failing to conduct a competitive assessment that would help formulate rules for spectrum licensing, needed to reduce data costs, expand 4G capacity, and roll out new 5G technology.

ICASA said on Tuesday it will appeal against the court order to halt the auction.

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(This story has not been edited by our team of editors and is generated from a feed.)

News Highlights:

  • A South African judge said he stopped the radio spectrum auction scheduled this month by regulator ICASA because he found the trial illegal and irrational. High Court Judge Selby Baqwa passed an order on Monday banning the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from proceeding with the auction, pending the hearing on the disputes raised by the telecommunications operator Telkom and by the broadcaster e.tv.
  • The South African regulator’s approach to auctioning the spectrum was illegal, the court said