Government loses appeal against Altech

ICT firm Altech Autopage Cellular has successfully opposed the government’s high court appeal against a judgement that the company and about 300 other value-added network services (VANS) can build their own telecommunications networks, Altech said on Friday.

Acting Judge N Davis heard the application for leave to appeal arguments from Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, the Minister Of Communications, and the opposing arguments from Altech on Thursday, and on Friday delivered his decision that the minister’s application for leave to appeal would be refused on all points, with costs.

This follows a landmark High Court ruling in August which found that VANS were entitled to individual electronic communications network service (I-ECNS) licences.
The licences would allow VANS to develop and operate their own networks, as do Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom.

The court case was brought by Altech Autopage against the telecoms regulator, Icasa, essentially to force Icasa to issue a new category of telecoms licences to anyone who applied, rather than cherry-picking a select handful that Icasa decided were worthy.

‘This is a powerful affirmation of our original court victory, and indicates that there is little prospect of any other court coming to a different conclusion. This brings Altech, the industry and the consumer within touching distance of a level playing field and fair market competition,” said Craig Venter, Altech’s chief executive officer.

At the time of the court ruling, media analyst and commentator on information and communications technology Arthur Goldstuck wrote on the Mail & Guardian Online‘s Thought Leader blogging platform: “When Justice Norman Davis ruled in the high court this morning that VANS must be allowed to provide their own networks—and that the regulator is obliged to grant the appropriate licence to any network that chooses to do so—he heralded the beginning of a truly competitive environment in telecommunications.”

Goldstuck explained that the court case “was brought by Altech Autopage against the telecoms regulator, Icasa, essentially to force Icasa to issue a new category of telecoms licences to anyone who applied, rather than cherry-picking a select handful that Icasa decided were worthy”

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