Prospective mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) must make regulators socio-economic offers they cannot refuse, according to Benjamin Mpolokoso, consultancy and training unit manager at the University of Zambia’s Centre for Information and Communication Technologies (CICT).
Speaking on a panel at the MVNO Industry Summit Africa 2013 discussing regulation of MVNOs on the continent, Mpolokoso said regulators will only become interested when the concept is likely to help them meet their universal access objectives.
“What I think regulators are looking for is a more socio-economic impact,” Mpolokoso said. “Regulators are looking for MVNOs that are going to be going in with a social responsibly.”
Representatives from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Department of Communications both failed to attend the panel discussion, leaving Mpolokoso to be joined by Frankie Spagnolo, founder of the International MVNX Association, and Sadiq Malik, principal consultant at the Broadband Gurus Network, who chaired the debate.
Malik suggested the reason why African regulators are not currently getting involved is because they do not understand the concept and have not been educated about what impact they can have.
“African regulators are about ten years behind the curve and they bumble around because they are not educated,” Malik said.
“The other reason why they are not bothered is because the telecommunications industry has not convinced them that 350 MVNOs will have a socio-economic impact.”
Mpolokoso pointed to one proposition he took to the United Nations in a bid for funding which would have introduced an MVNO in Zambia for the sole purpose of rolling out access to mobile money systems to enable a more efficient way to transfer social cash payments.
He believes, now internet access is considered a fundamental human right, it will only be a matter of time before the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) puts more pressure on communications regulators to set deadlines for universal access.