Third South African Cellular License Story

A brief overview of the Third Mobile Licence Story:

Communications Minister Jay Naidoo calls for 2 additional mobile licenses. Deadline set for April 1999.

Siemens ICN CA (Information and Communication Networks, Communication On Air) completes nominal cell planning and propagation model tuning for the third SA license.

Study shows only 1 additional mobile license will be viable

SATRA issues Application form for third license

Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri replaces Jay Naidoo as Communications Minister.

Tenders for mobile license close. Accepted are Africa Speaks, Nextcom, Cell C, Telia/Telenor, Five Mobile Networks, Khuluma 084 Cellular/NextCell

Zintatu Communications Power disqualified from the bidding by SATRA because it failed to supply it's bid information on a CD-ROM, did not supply 25 copies of the bid, and did not pay the application fee of SAR75,000.

Bidder Afrozone Telecoms withdraws from the license bid to team up with rival bidder Telia/Telenor. SATRA says that TT cannot change its original application to include new consortium members.

Public Hearings by applicants. 

Bidder Spatial Cellular informs SATRA that it was withdrawing from the bidding process.

Bidder Cell C responds to allegations that Rafik Hariri - the founder of one of its backers, Saudi Oger - has allegedly been charged with fraud and corruption. 

SATRA says it will announce winner on 24 December 1999.

Faced with an investigation into allegations of fraud, mismanagement and nepotism, SATRA delays announcement of winner 

Minister announces that following the request made by Parliament that the Auditor General investigate SATRA, allegations against SATRA and chairman Nape Maepa  are dismissed 

SATRA says that winning applicant will be announced at the end of March. 

During deliberations into who the winner should be,  Maepa recuses himself from his position as SATRA chairman under pressure from the Presidents Office due to a ‘possible conflict of interest’. 

Vodacom says it might go to court to force SATRA to gve it access to GSM 1800 MHz.

SATRA recommends Cell C as winning bidder

Democatic Party Sends Open Letter To Minister Over 3rd SA Cell License

Vodacom and MTN - the present holders of the two GSM 900 licenses - say that they have reached agreement in principle will Cell C for access to the GSM 1800 MHz spectrum that Cell C will use for its network.

Public hearings hear objections of losing bidders. 

Allegations that Presidents office interfered into the license bid appear in newspapers. 

Maepa says he did not support Cell C.

After revelations that it ignored a BDO Spencer Steward analysis that did not recommend Cell C as the preferred bidder, SATRA says it has mandated consulting firm GTKF to revisit the Cell C decision 

Chaos errupts as GTKF says that it had previously had contact with a member of one of the bidding companies. Communications Minister threatens to sue GTKF. Losing Bidder Telia-Telenor threatens to sue SATRA and government for the way in which the process has been handled.

SATRA chairman Maepa snubs government objections and returns to the re-adjudication process. 

SATRA re-recommends to the Communications Minister that Cell C be awarded the third licence. 

Communications Minister says she will announce the winning bidder at the end of July 2000.

SATRA replaced by ICASA. Maepe not nominated to ICASA council.

Losing Bidder NextCom applies for urgent court interdict to prevent the Minister from confirming Cell C as winning bidder. Maepe issues affidavit that alleges government interfered in deliberations. Judge Nico Coetzee issues injunction that says the Minister must wait, pending the outcome of a judicial review of the bidding process. 

Communications Minister attacks NextCom saysing it was going against the national interest by blocking her decision through the court interdict.

M&G newspaper says that Cell C was made winner because of a complex guns-for-oil deal with Saudi Arabia. Government says the M&G story is fiction.

The new ICASA regulatory body refuses incumbent GSM 900 Mhz operators Vodacom and MTN access to GSM 1800 Mhz as it says this must be reserved for a third operator. Bidder Nextcom agreees. Vodacom and MTN say they will take legal action to force access to 1800 Mhz. 

The Communications Minister says that some resolution to the crisis will occur in February 2000. Vodacom and MTN in the meantime sign up over 400,000 new users per month.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) filed its affidavit in the third cell phone court case. The affidavit was a response to NextCom's court application for an order setting aside the recommendation on the awarding of the third cell licence to Cell C made by the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) to the Minister of Communications.

Minister announces Cell C officially given license

Cell C Says It will be live by 12/2001

Rival Nextcom vows to fight decision to award CellC license

Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri,
Communications Minister

The Judicial Review of the Satra decision to recommend CellC as the winner of the third cellular licence in the country, continued in the Pretoria High Court. The proceedings were taken up by losing bidder Nextcom, substantiating claims that there had been executive interference in the process. Judge Hekkie Daniels, presiding in the case, accused Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi of lying to his court.


The judicial review into the licensing of the third cellphone operator took another turn when rival Nextcom CEO Moses "Bushy" Kelebonye (below, right) told the Pretoria High Court his company had decided
to withdraw from the case, prompting an immediate rebuttal from his company's own legal representatives.

Cell C will finally be allowed to start its GSM 1800 network in South Africa after rival bidder Nextcom officially withdrew from a judicial review into the awarding of the license. The latest developments in the saga mean that South Africans will now have Cell C competing with Vodacom and MTN by the end of the year.

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Detailed South African Information

:: Latest mobile statistics in South Africa (more...)
   CellC 3m
   MTN   5.22m
   Vodacom 9.7m

:: Vodacom South Africa - tariffs, specs, services
:: MTN South Africa - tariffs, specs, services
:: Cell C - tariffs, specs, services
:: SATRA/ICASA the regulatory body
:: Third South African Cellular License Story
:: Private Mobile Radio (PMR) Networks
:: Packet Radio Data Networks
:: Mobile Satellite Service License Holders
:: Telkom SA Tariffs To And From Mobiles
:: Cellular-related Web Sites In South & Southern Africa