An argument over whether SA’s telecommunications regulator has jurisdiction to rule in a dispute between Telkom and Vodacom, MTN and Cell C over interconnection fees, could spell bad news for the traditionally fixed-line operator.
Telkom wants the mobile operators to pay it 93c/minute for calls it carries from them onto its new mobile network, 8ta. In turn, it wants to pay them the lower “termination rate” of 89c/minute (in peak times) and 77c/minute (off-peak) for calls in the other direction.
In other words, Telkom wants an interconnection regime that is skewed in its favour.
The company’s legal team faced off with Vodacom’s lawyers on Friday at a hearing called by the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s complaints and compliance committee. The hearings began nearly a month ago.
The three incumbent operators are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the asymmetrical regime that Telkom wants imposed and has taken the matter to Icasa for resolution.
Vodacom on Friday argued that the Icasa committee does not have the right to set an interconnection rate. It said the Electronic Communications Act only allows Icasa, as a full council, to make a decision on pricing. Even then, it said the regulator has to engage in a full market study and publish regulations before acting.
However, Telkom said the act fully empowered the committee to make a ruling on the matter. The committee was required to investigate and make an appropriate finding on an interconnection dispute if requested to do so by the Icasa council, it said.
Telkom said that if Vodacom’s arguments were upheld the committee would never again be able to make a decision in a dispute, even if it was not about pricing.
MTN has made similar representations and it’s understood Cell C has similar concerns. However, in Cell C’s case, if Telkom wins its battle it could try to negotiate its own asymmetrical interconnection rate in front of the committee.
Icasa will soon publish a new set of regulations governing termination rates, which could change the arguments presented to the council. — Candice Jones, TechCentral