South African Internet industry body, the Internet Service Providers Association (Ispa), on Monday said it welcomed the High Court's decision to deny the Minister of Communications, Dr Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburri, leave to appeal against the August judgement in favour of Altech.
Matsepe-Casaburri in September said that the government would appeal the High Court's judgement that Altech Autopage Cellular had the right to convert its value-added network service (Vans) licence into an individual electronic communications network service (I-ECNS) licence, which would allow it to develop and operate its own communications network.
Altech on Friday reported that acting judge Norman Davis had heard the arguments from the Minister and the opposing arguments from Altech on October 30 and October 31, and had delivered his decision that the Minister's application for leave to appeal would be refused on all points.
Ispa said in a statement on Monday that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) was now required to issue all Vans licencees with Vans licences issued prior to July 19, with an I-ECNS licence.
However, Ispa said that the Minister had until November 21 to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal regarding the matter.
"It is advisable to wait until after this date before the matter can be regarded as settled. Thereafter, Vans licencees' entitlement to an I-ECNS licence can be regarded as certain," the industry body stated.
"We are delighted that Altech has been successful in opposing the Minister's application for leave to appeal against the original judgement. Ispa hopes that the latest ruling will bring this chapter to an end so that the telecommunications industry can move forward in an environment characterised by regulatory certainty and by a fair and even playing ground," commented Ispa regulatory advisor Mike Silber.
He added that Ispa saw the court's decision as a vindication of its stance that the Minister's grounds for an appeal against the judgment was based on deeply flawed reasoning.
At the time of lodging the appeal, the Minister had stated that if Vans licensees were allowed to obtain I-ECNS licences under licence conversions, government's managed-liberalisation policy would be seriously undermined to the detriment of the industry.
"The judgement indicates that there is little chance any other court will rule in favour of the Minister. We, therefore, urge Minister Matsepe-Casaburri to allow the liberalisation envisaged by the [Electronic Communications] Act to move ahead so that South African consumers and businesses can start to enjoy more competition and lower prices in the telecommunications market," commented Silber.