(Adds details, background)
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 30 A South African court on
Friday upheld the government's decision to block a tender for 12
billion rand ($850 million) of high-speed mobile broadband
licences issued by the telecoms regulator.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
(ICASA) took the industry by surprise in July when it opened a
tender to interested telecoms firms to bid for broadband
licences known as spectrum.
This prompted the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal
Services to seek legal action to prevent the auction, saying it
was made without consulting the government.
"A further concern is the haste with which ICASA is
proceeding to dispose of the spectrum given that this spectrum
will not be immediately available," the ministry said in July.
South Africa has pledged to roll out free Wifi services
across the country at a cost of around 67 billion rand ($4.7
billion), but access for operators to more bandwidth has been
delayed for years.
There are five main firms in South Africa's wireless
broadband market, including MTN, Vodacom and
partially state-owned operator Telkom.
($1 = 13.98 rand)
(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Writing by Joe Brock and Ed
Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley)