The Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa (ISPA) has urged all telecoms service providers who are not in possession of a licence to provide telecoms services to apply to ICASA to obtain class electronic communications network service (ECNS) and electronic communications service (ECS) licences as soon as possible.
The industry body estimates that as many as 1 000 unlicensed service providers are still operating outside the country's legal and regulatory framework. It believes that they should try to obtain licences as soon as possible for the good of the industry, their customers and their own businesses.
The Wireless Access Providers' Association (WAPA) is supporting ISPA's position. The organisation is calling on all users of licence-exempt spectrum to ensure that they have the appropriate licence to provide telecoms services and that they are using spectrum in accordance with the Frequency Licence Exemption Regulations of 2008.
Dominic Cull, one of ISPA's regulatory advisors, says: "One can empathise with service providers who were frustrated by a lack of regulatory and legislative certainty as well as the unreasonable restrictions on their ability to compete when the industry was governed by the old Telecommunications Act.
"But now that the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) is in place, there are no more grey areas in the law nor is there any moral justification for ignoring the laws and telecoms regulations of the country. ICASA is promptly processing licence applications. The fee for a class ECS and/ or class ECNS licence is reasonable, and there are no onerous conditions to be met before a licence will be granted."
A class ECS licence authorises the holder to provide electronic communications services on a national basis and to enter into commercial agreements with network operators to use their networks to carry its services to its customers. A class ECNS licence authorises the holder to self-provide its own network in an area no larger than a district municipality.
The costs of applying for the class licences have not been finalised and are likely to be in the region of R10 000.00 for a licence that is likely to be valid for 10 years, which is affordable for most service providers, says Cull.
"Today, the benefits of a licence by far outweigh the disadvantages, and most applicants can be sure that their licences will be granted. There is no excuse for any telecoms service provider not to have a licence," he says.