The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa), an industry body that represents many of South Africa’s ISPs, believes regulatory intervention is needed to force operators to open their networks to resellers.
That this hasn’t happened is indicative of “market failure” and as such “needs to be addressed to reduce the cost to communicate, poor service levels and a lack of innovation”, the association’s regulatory adviser, Dominic Cull, said on Friday.
“Consumers should be free to choose who they buy Internet access or data from, and this is in line with government policy,” Cull said.
Ispa wants operators to be forced to open their networks to third-party ISPs in the same way that fixed-line providers such as Telkom’s Openserve, Vumatel, Dark Fibre Africa, Liquid Telecom and Frogfoot Networks do today.
“Unfortunately, only those top-end South African Internet consumers lucky enough to be connected to an open-access fibre network have their pick of the country’s ISPs and the benefits of real competition,” said Cull. “That’s great for the residents of South Africa’s ‘fibrehoods’, but it’s not good for universal service or consumer rights.
“As a consumer, you are free to choose the best telecoms package for your needs, and this is in line with the government policy of promoting competition in the provision of services. If a provider does not meet your expectations, switching to another one is relatively inexpensive and quick,” he said.
He accused the big mobile networks of not wanting to provide a platform for competition in providing services. “They do not want competition at the services level and actively work against being required to allow competition with their own services.”
More than 80% of South Africans use networks that limit their choice of ISP, he added. “If you are a subscriber to one of the bigger mobile networks, chances are you then have to buy your data from that same mobile network: you have no choice. Current pricing strategies such as high out-of-bundle costs are a direct result.”
Cull said the Competition Commission is expected to announce an inquiry into high mobile data prices soon, while communications regulator Icasa is expected to launch an inquiry into competition in the provision of broadband services. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media