September 26, 2018 / 2:05 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's ICASA, minister settle spectrum litigation

(Adds details, quote)

CAPE TOWN, Sept 26 (Reuters) - South African telecoms regulator ICASA and the telecoms minister have agreed to settle court action over a tender for high demand spectrum that has curtailed the roll-out of broadband services, the two parties said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The settlement is part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to open competition in the telecoms market in Africa’s most industrialised economy where high data rates are a barrier to economic growth.

The initial auction in 2016 by telecoms regulator ICASA was stopped after Minister Siyabonga Cwele challenged the licensing process by arguing that ICASA should have waited until the department had finalised its integrated ICT policy before inviting operators to bid for spectrum.

“As a result of the settlement, the minister commenced consultations with ICASA on a draft policy direction for the licensing of high demand spectrum and intends issuing the draft policy direction for public comment,” the statement said.

At the end of the public consultation process and after considering the final policy, ICASA will commence the licensing process for the assignment of high demand spectrum.

In March a government spokesman said the government plans to allocate delayed radio frequency spectrum by March next year. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Ed Stoddard)

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