Sentech’s Screamer deal under scrutiny
Sentech unlawfully allowed Screamer Telecoms, a wireless Internet access provider, to use the state-owned company’s spectrum to provide services, its chairman, Quraysh Patel, has alleged.
And Patel has asked the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to act against Screamer if it’s found the company is still using Sentech’s spectrum.
In parliamentary hearings in Cape Town on Wednesday, Patel said that an agreement between Sentech and Screamer was cancelled in January. And he has refused to entertain a request from Screamer to renew the contract as doing so would be unlawful.
It appears Screamer used a portion of Sentech’s spectrum in the 2,6GHz band to provide services using WiMax technology. Reports have suggested the company used two 5MHz channels.
Even though Sentech cancelled the agreement, Screamer is continuing to advertise WiMax services. However, it’s not clear what spectrum it’s using.
According to a recent spectrum plan, Screamer has licensed spectrum inn the 7GHz and 38GHz bands. It also has access to the 28GHz on an ad hoc basis.
All of the bands that Screamer is licensed to use are generally for backhaul links and not typically used to provide WiMax to consumers.
The deal between Screamer and Sentech has long been a hot topic in the telecommunications industry, especially since a number of commercial operators are keen to get access to Sentech’s allocation in the 2,6GHz band.
For now Sentech and iBurst parent company Wireless Business Solutions are the only two companies licensed to provide services at 2,6GHz.
Patel used his time in parliament on Wednesday to provide a history of Sentech’s relationship with Screamer.
The deal was cemented several years ago, when the state-owned company entered an agreement with a company called Global Web Intact (GWI). The two parties agreed to a profit-sharing arrangement. Screamer later bought GWI.
But a task team, appointed by communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda to investigate problems facing Sentech, found recently that the contract with Screamer was in breach the Public Finance Management Act.
The act bars state-owned enterprises like Sentech from entering into these types of public-private partnerships.
Also, under the terms of its spectrum licence, Sentech is not at liberty to trade its spectrum.
According to Patel, Sentech’s new board is still trying to determine what money the company received from Screamer.
Patel said a Screamer shareholder has assured him the company is no longer using the spectrum. “But I have told Icasa to lodge a formal complaint if they find the spectrum is still being used,” he said.
Screamer CEO Gavin Hart declined to comment, saying he first needed a chance to view the transcripts from the parliamentary hearing.
Icasa could not immediately be reached for comment. — Candice Jones and Duncan McLeod, TechCentral