SA’s dominant telecommunications operators are in for a rough ride if the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) gets its way.
The authority has signalled its intention to accelerate the introduction a range of competition-related regulatory interventions in an effort to increase competition in SA’s telecoms sector.
SA’s mobile operators are already reeling from pressure to reduce interconnection rates — the fees they charge others to carry calls on their networks. Now Telkom is set to come under pressure, too, with Icasa saying it is crafting regulations that will facilitate competition in fixed-line telecoms.
The authority is promising to begin regulating not only mobile interconnect but also interconnect between other operators, including fixed-line providers.
It also says it will finalise regulations pertaining to something known as “carrier preselect” within the next five months.
Carrier preselect regulations will allow Telkom customers, for example, to choose to route their calls over another network. In other markets, carrier preselect regulations have usually had the effect of driving down fixed-line call tariffs.
In addition, Icasa has promised speedily to conclude research on the unbundling of the local loop. This would give other operators and Internet service providers direct access Telkom’s telephone exchanges so they provide services directly to consumers over the company’s so-called last mile of copper cables into homes and businesses.
Local-loop unbundling unbundling could have a devastating impact on Telkom since, on average, it already loses money on the line rental it charges each of its customers. This is known as the access deficit.
Icasa has also promised to revisit mobile number portability with a view to making it more effective. About 500 000 people have ported their numbers since portability was introduced.
Lastly, in broadcasting, the authority says it is developing a wholesale competition framework to facilitate competition in both content and transmission services. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral