ICASA must force networks to take data prices seriously – Liquid Telecom
ICASA must force the country’s telecoms industry to take the issue of high data prices seriously. This is according to Liquid Telecom South Africa CEO Kyle Whitehill, who was speaking at the 2017 MyBroadband Conference. Whitehill said he has found the issue of data costs in South Africa to be like the price of oil.
“Everyone sees it going up and down, but you don’t really experience the changes in price at the petrol pump,” he said. Similarly, the wholesale price of bandwidth in South Africa is competitive, but that has not filtered through to the retail side. “That’s a regulatory issue.
The regulator has to take it seriously and force the industry to take it seriously.”
What ICASA is doing
Whitehill’s comments align with the views of ISPA, which said ICASA must stop wasting time and begin its investigation into high data prices. “ISPA’s view is that there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence of a competitive failure in the market for mobile broadband services that ICASA is disregarding,” said ISPA. It said the market failure is a consequence of its highly-concentrated nature, where the suppliers are dominant, vertically-integrated entities.
ISPA said the “dominant operators” do not make non-discriminatory wholesale offerings available to other licensees in South Africa – which would allow them to compete in the retail market for mobile broadband. ICASA released a report last month on the tariff notifications it received from mobile operators H1 2017, and compared local prices to other African countries. It found that South Africa’s cheapest 500MB data bundle was approximately three-times cheaper than Swaziland’s, but 10-times more expensive than Morocco’s.
South Africa’s cheapest 2GB bundles performed better, though it found several instances where bundles were up to 80% cheaper outside the country. ICASA also announced plans in August to change its End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations with aggressive mobile data regulations. This includes forcing operators to send SMS notifications to users when they have depleted a data bundle, and allowing users to choose whether they want to use out-of-bundle data.
It has also proposed minimum validity periods for data bundles based on their size, starting at 10 days for 50MB bundles, and up to 24 months for bundles larger than 20GB.