Six companies, including Telkom, have applied to participate in the disputed upcoming radio frequency spectrum auction in South Africa.
Telkom has a pending application in court regarding the auction, but by close of the deadline at 4pm on Monday, it was included in the six companies which had submitted applications.
The six are MTN, Vodacom, Rain, Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Telkom.
Despite the ongoing legal action against the process by Telkom – the company wants the merits of its argument heard on an urgent basis, possibly as soon as the first week in March.
Meanwhile, the industry regular, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said the receipt of the applications “marks an important and critical step towards the auctioning of high-demand spectrum in March 2022”.
“In terms of the published timetable for this licensing process, the authority will announce the qualifying bidders on 21 February 2022. This will mark the next critical milestone in the effort of the authority to finally release this much-needed economic stimulus input,” the regulator said in a statement.
There is, however, every chance the process will still be derailed.
Although Telkom withdrew a previous application to interdict ICASA, it has said it reserves the right to approach the courts at any time if it feels warranted in doing so.
It has also said it believes the auction cannot proceed until the courts have pronounced on the merits of the matter, not only in its case against Icasa but also in the interrelated matter between e.tv parent eMedia Holdings and communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni over the switch-off of analogue television signals. The eMedia matter is set to be heard on 8 March.
In a statement on Monday following receipt of the six applications, ICASA Chairman Keabetswe Modimoeng urged all the role players “to align their interests with their patriotic spirit, and allow this critical regulatory intervention to be completed”.
“We value each milestone in this process, especially considering the mammoth legal challenges we have encountered along the way. Ultimately, the public interest should prevail, as this process will yield positive spinoffs for the industry and society at large.”
Meanwhile, the South Africa government has also cited Telkom for corruption and the company faces being investigated by a state anti-corruption body soon.