- Telkom has asked the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to postpone its next spectrum auction until 2025.
- The telco stated that it's necessary because the watchdog still needs to finish "studies" to be ready for the auction.
- The South African operator also said that it and other telcos that will participate in the auction would find it difficult to participate in the auction given the current challenging economic climate, which includes the effects of load-shedding.
This move, announced in its interim results for the fiscal year 2023/2024, comes as the communications regulator plans to finish licencing more high-demand spectrum by the end of March 2024.
The spectrum is expected to make an additional 5G-suitable spectrum available to operators, allowing mobile operators to increase the capacity and performance of their networks, potentially resulting in lower long-term data costs.
In March 2022, ICASA completed the high-demand radio frequency spectrum auction for international mobile telecommunications. The regulator reported that the auction process raised R14.4 billion ($750m) for the national fund, exceeding financial projections.
Six mobile service providers submitted applications to ICASA for spectrum: Cell C, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, MTN, Rain Networks, Telkom, and Vodacom.
Telkom has an outstanding bill of R1.5 billion for the licencing of 20MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz frequency band, even though it will probably need to set aside a significant sum for spectrum licencing in the upcoming auction. This bill is due before the end of 2023.
In March 2022, South Africa held its first-ever high-demand spectrum auction, and Telkom was one of the winners. Interference existed in the sub-1GHz bands for which certain operators had licences, delaying payment for this spectrum.
Telkom asserts that ICASA committed to investigating the issue and clearing the sub-1GHz IMT bands by September 30, 2023. So, the spectrum should now be accessible in South Africa following ICASA’s verification that it had resolved the interference issues.
Meanwhile, the company's half-year results show that Telkom invested less in its mobile network between April and September 2023 than it did during the same period in the previous year.
Telkom demonstrated growth in its revenue from mobile services during the same period, rising from R10.6 billion in September 2022 to R11 billion in September 2023, or a 4.1% increase in revenue.
Revenue from phone calls and subscriptions, interconnection, sales of handsets and equipment, and financing all decreased across Telkom's mobile service offerings.
However, mobile data revenue increased dramatically, rising from R6.3 billion in September 2022 to nearly R7 billion in September 2023.
Additionally, Telkom increased the number of its mobile subscribers from 18 million in September 2022 to 18.3 million in September 2023.