Communications regulator Icasa’s decision to investigate competition in the provision of mobile broadband services, which it announced last month, is “perhaps the most important regulatory process that Icasa has ever undertaken”.
That’s the view of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa), whose regulatory adviser, Dominic Cull, said on Tuesday that the inquiry should enjoy the “support of all South Africans”.
“This investigation cuts to the heart of the cost to communicate in South Africa and — together with the merging of the communications-focused government ministries — is the best ICT industry news that came out of 2018,” Cull said in a statement.
He said the inquiry will be a similar process to the one which led to regulation of voice call termination rates. “An inquiry into these rates led to massive reductions in wholesale rates charged between operators with a knock-on effect on pricing to consumers for voice communications.”
Cull said Icasa must follow a complicated legal process, with the regulator only expected to finish its work and publish final regulations by the end of March 2020.
“The first step in the process is for Icasa to gather information through a questionnaire and meetings with licensees,” he explained. “Next year, a discussion document will be published for comment and public hearings. This will be followed by a findings document and, if Icasa finds that it should use its power to stimulate competition in mobile broadband markets, draft regulations.
“The commencement of this process is most welcome. It is Icasa which has the real power in law to do something about mobile data pricing. If Icasa finds that there is a failure of competition in a mobile broadband market, it can impose conditions on licensees found to be dominant in that market which will have real impact on how much South Africans pay for their mobile data.” — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media