Alan Knott-Craig Sr, executive board member and former CEO of Cell C.
This week will be “make or break for affordable mobile communications in South Africa”, according to Cell C chief executive officer (CEO) Alan Knott-Craig Sr, as legal challenges to new mobile termination rates (MTRs) are heard in court.
HumanIPO reported earlier today the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is today in court to face legal claims by operators MTN and Vodacom challenging the MTRs published by ICASA in January, which include asymmetry favourable to smaller operators such as Cell C and Telkom Mobile.
“It is no exaggeration to claim that the coming week will be make or break for affordable mobile communications in South Africa – quite possibly for the next twenty years,” said Knott-Craig Sr – currently in the final stages of recovery from a stroke – said in a statement.
“…[The asymmetry provided for in the new regulations] is still sufficient to provide a fighting chance that will see a long term and sustainable shift in the established duopoly of the past 10 years.”
He said the next decade of telecommunications in South Africa must see consumers receive good value services at a fair price within a competitive market environment, as opposed to the current profit-driven duopoly.
Though admitting he had a hand in creating the current anti-competitive and highly priced telecoms environment, he said the situation should never have lasted this long.
“As the founding CEO of Vodacom, I know that I had a hand in creating the environment we find ourselves in now. I accept that I helped build an industry dominated by a duopoly,” Knott-Craig Sr said.
“At the time, and during the first ten years of the industry, it was the right thing and the industry was about building high quality networks. But it should never have lasted this long – the second ten years of the industry appears to have been more about reaping extraordinary profit than about telecommunications.”
He said he now believes in the need to lower MTR rates, introduce asymmetry and increase competition in the market in order to bring about a “profound change in retail prices”, and benefits for all consumers and the South African economy at large.
“Such a shift would mean a profound change in retail prices and could deliver enormous benefit to all customers (not just Cell C’s), the South African economy as a whole and, yes, Cell C,” he said.
According to Knott-Craig Sr, while initially the market was focused on rolling out stable networks, the time is nigh to start concentrating on competition and pushing down prices.
The CEO said MTN and Vodacom accept MTRs and prices in general must be reduced, and are attempting only to stall the process through their legal claims.
Saying that he is almost recovered from the stroke he suffered late last year – when acting-CEO Jose Dos Santos stepped to the helm of Cell C – Knott-Craig said he hopes to return to a different telecoms environment focused on fair pricing and good services.
“… I have been recovering from the stroke I suffered late last year. I am in the final stages of my recovery and should be back in the saddle soon,” he said.
“I want to come back to an industry that reflects our 20 years of democracy. I want to come back to a competitive industry, an industry ready to provide services to everyone, at a good rate. I would like the next ten years of the industry to be about honest, good value service, delivered in a way that consumers understand – a fair price for a good service.”