TechCentral was on Tuesday morning asked to leave a meeting in Sandton, called by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to discuss the cost of telecommunications in SA. This followed an objection by MTN SA CEO Karel Pienaar to the publication’s presence.
Media had not specifically been invited to attend the meeting — this publication attended because it believed the discussion would be in the public interest.
The meeting had been called by Icasa to ask network operators what they plan to do to bring down interconnection rates, the fees they charge one another to carry calls to each other’s networks. High mobile interconnection fees have been blamed for keeping call rates higher than they should be. MTN and Vodacom have been accused of using the rates as a market weapon to keep competition from emerging.
Before TechCentral was hoofed, Icasa chairman Paris Mashile, pictured above, asked the audience, which also included Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt, Neotel CEO Ajay Pandey, senior representatives from Telkom and Vodacom, and representatives from the Internet Service Providers’ Assocation, what could be done to address high interconnection fees.
“We want you to tell us what you intend doing about this concern raised by the whole country,” Mashile said. “We are not asking you to operate at a loss … but your profit must be economic and reasonable.”
Mashile said this morning’s meeting in no way would affect the regulatory processes Icasa had to complete in order to begin to regulate interconnection fees. “That will continue, whatever comes out of this meeting.”
Asked on what legal basis Icasa was asking TechCentral to leave this morning’s meeting, an Icasa official said it was closed and by invitation only and this was “sufficient legal reason” to bar the publication from the room. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral