Icasa chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

THE Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has resolved to oppose Telkom’s litigation to stop the expiry of the temporary Covid-19 spectrum allocation.

In August, the authority directed the various telecommunications companies to return the temporary spectrum it had assigned to enable the operators to handle the surge in demand for connectivity during the country’s Covid-19-linked State of Disaster by November 30.

Icasa issued emergency spectrum on an initial three-month temporary basis during April 2020, extending it twice as South Africa’s intermittent lockdowns continued during 2020 and 2021.

While the last extension expired on August 31, Icasa said it is important that the industry be allowed adequate time to plan and adjust their operations after having had access to the spectrum since April 2020.

“Icasa believes that the circumstances and considerations that informed the issuing of the radio frequency spectrum at the onset of the pandemic never contemplated that the spectrum would be licensed on a long-term or semi-permanent basis,” the authority said in a statement.

Icasa previously said that it cannot allow the temporary spectrum assignment to assume a state of permanence.

“The authority will therefore be derelict in its duty if it were, by default, to perpetuate what is now becoming an anti-competitive, unfair and unjust spectrum licensing regime, under the guise of pandemic relief,” Icasa said in the October 13 statement.

Further, Icasa had set out an expedited timetable for the permanent licensing of the high-demand spectrum through an open, market-based approach by no later than the end of March 2022.

“In Icasa’s view, it would be unfortunate if the authority’s efforts to license this spectrum were continually to be frustrated by recourse to the courts to allow the temporary, ad hoc Covid-19 spectrum arrangements to remain in place in perpetuity.”

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