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MTN South Africa challenges Vodacom’s spectrum pooling lawsuit

  • MTN South Africa has announced plans to challenge Vodacom’s allegations of unfair spectrum pooling arrangements with Cell C and Liquid Intelligence Technologies after a lawsuit was filed against the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), the country’s communications regulator.
  • The telco has opposed the interdict to halt the arrangements with Icasa as it will affect its network quality, speed and capacity, and that of other network providers roaming it.
  • Cell C has also expressed confidence in the legality of the spectrum regulator approval by Icasa and strongly opposes Vodacom’s application for an interdict on the pooling arrangements backing up its partner MTN.

In 2022, MTN and its pooling partners applied to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to pool spectrums on the accounts of its COVID-19 arrangements regulations for spectrum pooling. 

Spectrum pooling involves sharing spectrum bands with secondary networks, allowing them to utilise frequencies typically licensed to primary users. These frequencies are crucial for various communication services provided by telecommunications companies.

On May 24, 2024, Vodacom took legal action against Icasa, alleging that the approval of spectrum pooling arrangements involving MTN, Cell C, and Liquid Intelligent Technologies was done secretly and without public notice. 

Vodacom’s court papers illustrate how MTN’s pooling agreements have enabled it to accumulate substantial bandwidth, giving it a competitive advantage over rivals. Consequently, Vodacom asked the court for an interdict on MTN’s spectrum pooling agreements with Icasa.

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However, MTN, Cell C, and Liquid Intelligence denied all allegations of an unfair and secret agreement. Defending spectrum pooling, MTN cited its benefits for market competition and efficiency. It noted approval from Icasa under South Africa’s Electronic Communication Act, asserting the legality and regulatory compliance of their arrangements.

The resolution of this dispute will carry substantial implications for South Africa’s telecommunications sector. 

What’s more, MTN argues that Vodacom has failed to present adequate evidence supporting its interdict, and insists that the request should be rejected. Concurrently, Cell C has announced its intention to contest Vodacom’s interdict, asserting that the regulatory procedures were correctly followed.


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