Vodacom and MTN, South Africa’s two largest mobile networks, have joined forces with Telkom in a lawsuit to prevent the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) from withdrawing the temporary spectrum.
The temporary spectrum allowed operators to provide faster connectivity to customers in order to meet a surge in data demand that occurred last year as a large number of people began working and studying from home.
MTN and Vodacom have also launched 5G networks using temporary frequencies.
The permanent process of auctioning long-term spectrum has been delayed by legal wrangling after Telkom and broadcaster eMedia Holdings claimed the auction process was flawed and obtained a court order suspending it.
ICASA restarted the auction process this month after the legal wrangling was resolved.
Telkom then filed new papers this month asking the High Court to set aside ICASA’s decision to withdraw a temporary spectrum, saying the removal of that spectrum would have a “catastrophic” impact on its network performance and customers.
“Vodacom can confirm that it has joined the legal proceedings and that it will be supporting the relief sought by Telkom,” Vodacom said in a statement on Monday.
MTN said on Friday that it had filed papers in the Pretoria High Court opposing ICASA’s decision requiring the return of the temporary spectrum.
MTN said that since the start of the pandemic, demand for data on its network has increased by 165 per cent.
“The withdrawal of the temporary spectrum will also pose a significant risk to lower-income South Africans, students and learners who are benefiting from free access,” established at the start of the pandemic, the operator said.
More than five million people get free access to more than 1,000 websites, thanks to the temporary spectrum, MTN said, adding that it remains open to settling out of court.
Last week ICASA said it would challenge Telkom’s lawsuit.
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