ICASA Sees an Optimistic Turn of Events in SA Spectrum Dispute

ICASA released a press release stating that there have been positive advancements in the Spectrum litigation case.

Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, Chairperson of ICASA
Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, Chairperson of ICASA

In the ongoing settlement, negotiations on spectrum litigation, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) released a press release to advise the public and stakeholders that the settlement negotiations unfolding with a very encouraging outlook. All active litigants have since responded with their various positions on the matters, and there is an ongoing exchange of constructive engagements between the parties.

As part of the settlement discussions, ICASA is consolidating submissions with active litigants and will outline a way forward in due course.

In March 2021, ICASA issued a communication in respect of its position on mediation and the considerations related to possible settlement discussions with active litigants. The considerations were informed by, amongst others, counsel’s advice to embark on a settlement negotiation process that would result in a binding outcome capable of being made an Order of Court. The option and decision to enter into settlement negotiations has now proven to be effective as well as efficient, and afforded litigants the latitude to express themselves, thereby engaging thoroughly on the matters at hand.

Earlier this year, MTN raised concerns that the auction structure would exclude Tier 1 operators from the participation and therefore challenged the auction structure at Gauteng High Court. MTN and Vodacom are the only operators classified as Tier 1 operators.

The Chairperson of ICASA, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng has expressed his confidence in the way parties have been able to engage with the Authority, and for showing interest, as well as optimism, in resolving the current challenges relating to the licensing of radio frequency spectrum for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT).

“We note and welcome the comments made by the President of the Republic on the current spectrum legal deadlock over the past week. We are, however, confident that, based on the discussions and concessions brought about by the parties, we should be in a good position to yield an amicable settlement agreement by no later than the end of August 2021.”

Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, The Chairperson of ICASA

The Chairperson further stated that, as soon as a settlement is reached, ICASA will only need a few more weeks to set the spectrum auction process in motion, and to communicate the new closing date for the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) applications.

ICASA also advised that, even though its current preoccupation is to find a resolution through the ongoing negotiations between litigants, the formalities in respect of the appeal process occasioned by the judgement of 8 March 2021 are continuing in parallel as previously communicated. The outcome of the current settlement negotiations will, however, inform the future conduct of the appeal.

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