Court rules South African regulator’s spectrum auction plan was unlawful

High Court Judge of South Africa, Selby Baqwa passed an order on 8 March, 2021, that prohibited the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from proceeding with the 5G spectrum auction, pending a hearing on contentions raised by telecoms operator Telkom and broadcaster, according to a Reuters report. The judge said he had halted the planned auction because the process deemed unlawful and irrational. Telkom and disputed  ICASA’s decision to put up 700MHz and 800MHz spectrum bands for auction, which are currently used by television broadcasters, before completing the migration of broadcasting services to digital from analogue. ICASA argued in court that mobile operators would be able to share the bands with broadcasters immediately after the auction. However, Judge Baqwa said in his judgement that ICASA had contradicted itself by having said in December that the availability of those bands would be delayed and subject to the completion of the migration. Baqwa also criticised ICASA for failing to conduct a competition assessment which would have contributed to developing rules for assigning spectrum licenses, which are necessary to lower data costs, expand 4G capacity, and roll out 5G technology.