When Internet Solutions makes its presentation this week to the parliamentary committee working on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Amendment Bill, it will be calling for far-reaching, strategic rather than incremental changes.
“The fact that there have been no adjustments to legislation for seven years in an industry that evolves on an almost daily basis has turned the law into a significant impediment to the agility of the communications sector,” says Internet Solutions (IS) executive for regulatory affairs Siyabonga Madyibi. “This has serious implications for consumers and businesses and, therefore, for the country’s global competitiveness.
“However, if government is going to amend the law now, we believe it should take the opportunity to make profound changes that will not only align the local industry with existing international benchmarks but also equip it to stay abreast of future developments.”
Madyibi says that Internet Solutions is more concerned about what’s left out of the new amendments than what is contained in the current draft.
“Although we are encouraged by the fact that the amendments are tackling spectrum trading, we feel that the updates should not again be so vague as to keep ICASA paralysed and, thereby, delay the introduction of long term evolution (LTE) and 4G still further.”
The amendments are also silent on the question of wholesale call termination which, in Madyibi’s view, has been unsuccessful. “We would like to see asymmetric termination considered, as it has been proven elsewhere in the world to make smaller operators sustainable.”
Asymmetrical termination sets termination charges above efficient costs for telephony traffic originating on a single large network and terminating on smaller networks. The European Union has used the practice since 2007 to favour entrants to the communications market, increasing competition and, as a result, benefitting consumers.
Internet Solutions also believes that infrastructure sharing is vital to cost reduction, with many countries not only encouraging but pro-actively incentivising it.
“In addition, we are concerned that the Amendment Bill does not take into account the dominance of the South African market by a minority of very large players and their resulting ability to influence pricing and infrastructure usage,” Madyibi says.
“We believe that legislation should be designed to create a competitive market so that operators can give consumers choice and affordability. You can resolve most of the industry’s other issues fairly easily if you get that right. Everything falls into place when you consider the consumer first.”