ICASA should focus on cutting data costs, not MTRs – ISPA

ICASA should focus on cutting data costs, not MTRs – ISPA

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) should prioritise lowering the costs of mobile data, not focus on cutting the cost of voice calls, according to the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA).

According to ISPA, the overly high cost of mobile data is a “more pressing” issue than mobile termination rates (MTRs) and the overall cost of voice calls, and ICASA should focus on putting “regulatory pressure” on mobile data providers to bring better price offerings to the South African market.

“Voice remains a significant issue for the average consumer. At the same time, voice revenue to providers is declining year-on-year. The growth is in data, and ISPA believes that it is well past time for ICASA to get to grips with the competitive and pricing issues relating to broadband and data services. Most notably, the high cost of mobile data services and the lack of wholesale offerings from the network operators,” said Dominic Cull, ISPA regulatory advisor.

ISPA said if providers were forced into providing “genuine” wholesale offerings to consumers, competition would increase in the market, pushing down the overall costs of mobile data and echoing what happened in the fixed line data market.

Cull pointed to the partnership between South Africa’s second operator MTN and internet provider Afrihost, resulting in such a “genuine” wholesale offering, saying “the consumer benefits have been both immediate and compelling”.

While the lowering of MTRs and the cost of voice calls is welcome, ISPA said, voice is less and less relevant in the communications market, and ICASA should not be wasting its funds on litigation over MTRs.

HumanIPO reported both MTN and Vodacom have launched legal challenges against ICASA’s new MTR regulations, which would cut interconnect rates by 50 per cent and provide for asymmetric costs to the detriment of the larger operators.

“ICASA’s thinly-stretched resources are consumed by processes and litigation addressing issues which changes in technology are making increasingly irrelevant in the medium-to-long-term. The regulator has very limited capacity to plan for what is coming,” said Cull.

“What ISPA is ultimately suggesting is that both ICASA and the service providers should be looking to the future rather than the past.

“ISPA is of the opinion that with the inevitability of everything, including voice, converging to IP, a shift in focus is required. What we would like to see is more emphasis being placed on what a world – where all services, including voice calls, are received through an IP or broadband connection – will look like.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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