Steven Barnwell with a Tygerberg hospital patient during Vodacom's Smile campaign | Source: Overend
"People complain about the network deteriorating, but what we find - and it seems to be an increasing trend - people go overseas and buy a cordless phone and bring it back here, not realising that it, first of all it's illegal, because it's not ICASA approved," Steven Barnwell, Managing Executive at Vodacom Western Cape, told News24.
According to the South African Electronic Communications Act, mobile phones have to be authorised by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to ensure that mobile network services do not weaken because of interference.
Barnwell explained illegal use affects all the users in a certain area who are dependent on the same base station for connectivity.
Although South African network provider Vodacom had a tracking system to persecute users of unauthorised devices, the company considered the cost, which mostly went to area patrol services, too great to sustain.
"We spend a lot of time tracking it down. You’ve got this signal somewhere in the network and you need very advanced triangulation technology and vehicles to pinpoint it: Three vehicles triangulating where that signal is coming from - it's not that easy to just pick up that signal," Barnwell said.
Vodacom is joining hands with ICASA in reporting cases they come across and the regulator said they are on the case of investigating illegal phone use and selling in the country.
"The Authority would therefore visit the premises where illegal equipment is stored, sold, hired or manufactured. Such illegal equipment may be seized and sealed; and also refer the matter to the Complaints and Compliance Committee for investigation and adjudication," Paseka Maleka, Manager for Media and Stakeholder Liaison at ICASA, told News24.
Legal phones should be labelled with an ICASA sticker of approval. Users who suspect their devices are not authorised, should contact ICASA on 011 566 3000.