Mobile operators in Pretoria for urgent talks (update 1) - TechCentral

Mobile operators in Pretoria for urgent talks (update 1)

Mamodupi Mohlala

Government and the mobile operators were locked in an urgent, closed-door meeting in Pretoria on Tuesday following the collapse of talks last week aimed at bringing down mobile interconnection fees.

TechCentral has learnt that the CEOs of Vodacom SA, MTN SA and Cell C have been asked to brief communications department director-general Mamodupi Mohlala (pictured) and other departmental and ministerial officials on the breakdown in talks on Friday.

It was not immediately clear whether the operators were briefing government together, or whether they had separate audiences with Mohlala and her team on Tuesday. It is understood that MTN and Vodacom were both planning to release statements following the conclusion of the latest talks.

Government wants mobile interconnection fees — the rates the cellphone companies charge each other and other operators to carry calls onto their networks — reduced and the benefits passed on to consumers through a lowering of retail tariffs.

Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda lashed out at the mobile operators at the weekend, accusing them in an interview with the Sunday Times of “super exploitation” of consumers.

This was after talks facilitated by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) aimed at bringing about a voluntarily reduction in the fees broke down. The operators couldn’t agree on how much the rates should be cut, prompting an angry reaction from government.

This talks breakdown also prompted Icasa to issue a strongly worded statement in which it accused the mobile operators of putting “nothing on the table” at Friday’s meeting. The authority said that Vodacom and MTN had “refused to disclose their bilateral mobile termination rate agreement” and said the “moral suasion” process has not yielded “positive results”.

Earlier this month, Nyanda issued a directive to Icasa, instructing it to bring down interconnection fees by no later than 30 November this year. Icasa, which has to follow a complex process under law to regulate the rates, has promised to deal with the issue by end-March 2010.  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

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5 Comments

  1. About time. I really hope they’re laying down the law, telling them how it’s gonna be, rather than begging for crumbs.

  2. I commend Cell C for their plight to lower Call rates for the people!
    We have been exploited enough.Why is it take so long for this issue to be resolved?
    It is fact that Vodacom,MTN and telkom upped the interconnect cost by 100 cents! just before Cell C came into being,no doubt this was a strategic move.Keep going Cell C we support you.

  3. How sick! The cellphone companies are sitting and colluding and fighting government when they want to reduce the fees they charge, between them and the banks, how much money has been stolen from South Africans and they sit there, raking in billions (read that Billions!) from us and get arrogant and aggressive when they are challenged, it is really time the government sorted out both the banks and the cell phone companies!

  4. I want to say let the market dictate prices… but there are circumstances when the “greed” of some can seriously affect the health of the overall economy.

    Let’s take electricity for example. We don’t have an alternative that we can substitute for it and no matter what the “market” demands for it we will end up paying for it because we do need electricity to work and earn the money that pays our bills.

    So why target the cellphone companies? This is not also the first target… the big supermarkets were targeted recently, we are still living in a country with a free market and yes there should be a anti-competition law but what will happen if government succeeds in dictating pricing? So from me that is a NO, you are not forced to have a cellphone, you can be without it, but you need essentials like electricity.

  5. Dominic I do not understand why you see Cell C as the consumer champion with regards the whole interconnect debate. I do not see reductions in a symmetrical MTR providing any real benefit to any of the mobile operators which they could then pass on to the consumer. The only way that the consumer can benefit is if the mobile operators reduce profits. The introduction of an asymmetrical rate between Vodacom/MTN and Cell C would provide a benefit to Cell C but at the expense of Vodacom/MTN. That however seems conceptually unfair.