JOHANNESBURG, Feb 22 (Reuters) - South Africa's telecoms
regulator on Monday pushed back the announcement of the
qualifying bidders for its long-awaited auction of new spectrum
by a month to March 23, just a week before the sale had been due
to be completed.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
(ICASA) said it was completing a contract with the external
auctioneer who will oversee and manage the process, and the
auction would now start on March 31 rather than finishing then.
Allocation of high-demand spectrum is seen as key to
expanding broadband services, especially 5G, in Africa's most
industrialised economy, where the high cost of
telecommunications is a barrier to doing business.
Telecom operators have been waiting over a decade for ICASA
to release new spectrum licences but Telkom, which is
partly state-owned, and MTN Group have challenged the
auction process in court.
"We remain confident that we are not off the track but in a
better position to complete the licensing of high-demand
spectrum," ICASA's Chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng said.
Telkom is seeking an order to halt the auction and there has
not been a judgment in its case yet. MTN's separate challenge
has yet to be heard in court.
Operators including MTN, Telkom, Vodacom, Cell C,
Rain networks and Liquid Telecoms have applied for licences.
The spectrum auction process was pushed back three months in
September due to a delay in issuing invitations to apply.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by David Clarke)