The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa), a body that represents many of South Africa’s ISPs, on Tuesday accused communications regulator Icasa of ignoring a policy directive from telecommunications & postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele over competition in broadband.
Ispa accused Icasa of instead focusing on voice termination rates — the fees operators charge to switch calls between their networks — while ignoring the pricing of mobile data services, which, it contended, have more of an impact on consumers.
“Effective competition in the mobile data services used by consumers is the key to making broadband more affordable for all South Africans. There is, however, an unfortunate lack of urgency on the part of the communications regulator to confront the mobile network operators on this issue,” Ispa said in a statement.
The body said Cwele issued an urgent policy directive to Icasa on 3 March last year requiring it to prioritise an inquiry that would finalise regulations to ensure effective competition in broadband services. “A full year later, little appears to have been done,” it said.
Since 2014, Icasa has reported to communications minister Faith Muthambi, and not to Cwele. This is after President Jacob Zuma split the old communications department in two, creating two ministries and departments dealing with ICT and broadcasting issues.
“Despite the trend towards increasing data usage and decreasing use of voice services, Icasa has announced that it will continue to focus on the cost of voice calls. Previous use by Icasa of chapter 10 of the Electronic Communications Act to bring down voice costs was very successful and has made a real difference to the cost to communicate for South Africans over the last six years,” Ispa said in its statement.
“However, a declining share of the consumer’s monthly mobile spend goes to voice calls. At current growth rates, mobile data revenue will soon surpass voice revenue. What is urgently needed — and what consumers are clamouring for — is cheaper mobile data. There is very little progress on this front,” it added.
“While Icasa has appointed a service provider to undertake a study of broadband markets, nothing has been communicated to industry or the public more than a year after the minister’s directive.
“By focusing on voice call termination rates, Icasa is taking the easy option of doing what it has done before, while avoiding the far more relevant and pressing issue of the cost of the mobile data used by tens of millions of South Africans.”
TechCentral has asked Icasa for comment on the claims made by Ispa. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media