Urgent intervention to bring down the price of mobile data is an obvious priority for South African consumers and the country’s Minister of Telecommunications & Postal Services, but not equally so for the country’s telecommunications regulator, according to the Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA).
The association has criticised Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) for placing intervention on the back burner, despite South Africa being one of the world’s least competitive mobile data spaces.
“According to the latest StatsSA General Household Survey, the exclusive use of cellphones was most common in the most economically marginalised provinces of Mpumalanga (95%), Limpopo (94,4%), North West (90,5%) and Free State (90,2%),” said ISPA in a statement.
“But instead of getting on with the job of providing financial relief to debt-stressed consumers in a recession, Icasa is dithering by announcing recently that it is embarking on a process to determine which areas to focus on when exercising its powers.”
“Icasa says it intends to complete this process by April 2018 and will only look at intervention in specific markets afterwards.”
No more time wasting
The priority market for intervention is obvious and there is no need to waste more time, according to Dominic Cull, ISPA regulatory advisor.
“We have been talking about mobile data affordability for a long time, and what Icasa is proposing means that concrete steps are unlikely to materialise before 2019/2020.”
He noted that government had had already directed Icasa to prioritise the commencement and conclusion of an inquiry in March 2016, with little done since then.
“Yet, it is clear from the #datamustfall campaign, as well as recent news reports and the constant clamour on social media, that South Africans are deeply concerned about how much they spend on mobile data.”
“While this concern will deepen as we consume more data as part of our everyday working and social lives, there is an unfortunate lack of urgency on the part of the communications regulator to confront the mobile network operators on this issue.”