Valuable radio spectrum that is crucial for offering telecommunication services may be clawed back from Sentech unless the treasury stumps up enough cash to let the state-owned company build a network, writes Lesley Stones in Business Day.

The threat of withdrawing Sentech’s spectrum was made by the Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) yesterday, with chairman Paris Mashile hoping the warning will prompt the t reasury to loosen its purse strings.

Numerous telecoms operators and internet service providers complain that there is too little spectrum for them to build cost-efficient networks, while Sentech is sitting on a chunk it cannot afford to use.

“If you don’t use it you lose it,” Mashile said at a conference staged by Internet Solution.

Icasa was prepared to recall the spectrum to force the government to act.

Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri has ordered Sentech to build a high-speed network to deliver affordable voice and data services to rural areas, and to schools and hospitals.

Sentech says that will cost R3bn, but the treasury has given it only R500m as it does not think Sentech should be doing that job.

Yet Matsepe-Casaburri insists her plan would improve the lives of millions by taking services to rural communities, and would lower the exorbitant cost of communicating.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.