Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda has defended the decision by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) not to accept proposals from Vodacom, MTN and Cell C that could have prevented it from regulating interconnection fees until March 2013.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Nyanda said that he respected Icasa’s independence and said he had indicated in a report to parliament last year that the final decision on reducing interconnection rates rested with the authority.
The minister also said the three-year glide path in the rates, proposed by the operators, was “unfair to consumers who had been affected by high telecommunications costs for too long”.
TechCentral broke the news of Icasa’s decision to reject applications from the country’s three mobile operators on Monday.
Icasa will now determine an appropriate level for interconnection rates based on market studies. It’s not yet clear if it will allow the operators a glide path over a number of years or impose a new, lower fee immediately.
Interconnection rates are the fees the mobile operators charge each other and other network operators to carry calls onto their networks. They have been set at a relatively high R1,25/minute in peak calling times for several years.
MTN, Vodacom and Cell C agreed in discussions facilitated by Nyanda that they would reduce the rate to 89c/minute in peak times while leaving the off-peak rate unchanged at 77c/minute. The reduction was to have taken effect at midnight on 1 March.
But the authority said on Monday that the mobile operators were trying to force it into agreeing not to begin setting the rates until at least 2013. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral