MTN SA opposes bid to halt spectrum pooling

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MTN South Africa, Cell C and Liquid have opposed Vodacom’s request to the courts for an urgent interdict to halt spectrum pooling in the country.
MTN argues the pooling arrangements work to enhance competition in any market and generate efficiencies for all parties involved.

MTN and its pooling partners applied to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to pool spectrum in early 2022, leveraging off the positive impact of temporary spectrum pooling arrangements that were approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 regulations made provision for expedited approval processes for applications such as spectrum sharing or pooling.

MTN believes the mechanisms for these types of arrangements are not new and are commonplace in other markets.

The operator noted the South African regulatory framework permitted parties to apply for such arrangements, and MTN and its partners applied to ICASA in terms of the Electronic Communication Act and received approval.

“Pursuant to these approvals, MTN designed and deployed its network,” said Marina Madale, MTN South Africa Acting Chief Sustainability and Corporate Affairs Officer.

In May 2024, Vodacom challenged the legality of these deals, filing papers in the High Court requesting an interdict against the pooling arrangements between MTN, Cell C and Liquid, pending a review of ICASA’s decision.

Vodacom alleges that MTN, Cell C and Liquid applied in secret, and seemingly with ICASA’s cooperation, to implement an unlawful scheme purely for their own commercial benefit.

MTN says it was open about its decision to pursue pooling arrangements with other operators and followed the process set out in the Electronic Communications Act and Regulations for ICASA’s approval.

Madale said spectrum pooling was an efficient technique to utilise spectrum which had benefits for both licensees and all customer segments.

“More efficient applications of spectrum advance the industry and benefit the broader public,” she added.

In its answering affidavit, MTN argues that Vodacom has failed to provide evidence to support an interdict of these pooling arrangements.

“Given the impact on MTN, its partners, roaming customers, MVNOs, subscribers, and the public, MTN believes that the request for interim relief should be dismissed,” Madale concluded.

by TINTSWALO BALOYI

JOHANNESBURG

– CAJ News

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