Some Internet service providers (ISPs) are concerned about the timing of interim transformation requirements, suggesting that April 2022 does not give them enough time to establish effective agreements.
ISPs are required to have 30% broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) equity held by historically disadvantaged groups (HDG), including any black South African, women, people with disabilities, and youth.
“This isn’t new, it was introduced in 2008 when the VANS licences were converted to ECS and ECNS licences,” says Paul Colmer, Exco member of non-profit Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA). “However, other organisations have raised what we feel are valid concerns, not with the ultimate targets, but rather with the timing around interim targets.”
Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has been approached on the issue.
“Companies that currently have no certification, for example, could struggle to reach level 7 by April 2022,” says Colmer. “It’s also important to note that this is a separate issue from the newfound desire to support 30% ownership by HDG, which does not apply to Class licence holders, only to Individual licence holders.”
Individual licence holders are generally larger companies that operate across an entire province or nationally. There are two types of Electronic Communications Services (ECS) and Electronic Communication Network Service (ECNS) licences.
ECNS is essentially the physical network and ECS the services that are provided over the network. Individual ECNS licences permit operation of a network nationally or provincially. Individual ECNS is the same for a district or local municipality.
ECS is slightly different in that Individual ECS licence holders may assign numbers from the National Numbering Plan. Class ECS licence holders may not. The National Numbering Plan is essentially a set of regulations around how telephone numbers are assigned, such as the 011 landlines and 08x numbers commonly used by mobile operators.
“What government has said, in essence, is that the transformation and equity ownership regulations that have been in place since 2008 will be enforced for the larger operators, the Individual ECS and ECNS licence holders, from April 2022,” says Colmer. “HDG does not apply to Class licence holders. They are required to be level 4, which only applies on renewal, amendment or transfer, and is automatically granted to licence holders with annual turnovers less than R10-million.”
He says Individual licence holder WAPA members have expressed concerns around the timing and that he is keenly following an application made by Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) to ICASA.