The tough data price questions that MTN, Vodacom and others will have to answer

The Competition Commission will hold public hearings for the Data Services Market Inquiry in October – following numerous complaints relating to data services in the country.

“The Market Inquiry seeks to understand features in the market and the value chain that may cause or lead to high prices for data services. It also seeks to make recommendations that would result in lower prices for data services,” the Commission said.

“(It) will cover all market participants involved at any point in the value chain for data services that are provided to customers such as government, businesses, trade associations, public entities, regulatory authorities and end-consumers in South Africa.”

The Commission will require participating stakeholders to make written submissions prior to the oral submissions.

These stakeholders include the Internet Service Providers’ Association, Media Monitoring Africa, MTN, the Right2Know Campaign, Tarifica, Telkom, the Alliance for Affordable Internet,, Broadband Infraco, Cell C, DG Murray Trust, Electronic Communications Network and Vodacom.

In a statement on Wednesday (19 September), the Commission said that submissions in respect of the public hearings should focus on the following key questions:

  • Are data prices in South Africa (whether mobile, fixed or other) higher than they ought to be?
  • To the extent that data prices in South Africa are higher than they ought to be, what are the factors that drive these outcomes?
  • How can these factors be effectively remedied?
  • What is the impact of data prices and access to data more broadly on lower-income customers, rural customers, small businesses and the unemployed?
  • How important are affordable data prices for these customers?

Heating up

While South Africa’s telecommunication companies have been relatively civil regarding the market inquiry up until this point, Vodacom drew attention this week due to its submission.

According to a report by TimesLive, Vodacom recently demanded access to the Competition Commission’s “current market research” into data in other African countries being cheaper than in South Africa.

Vodacom reportedly claimed in its submission that research done for it concluded that benchmarking of data prices (to other countries) was complex and that significant variations in key economic and geographic factors across countries made it difficult to draw conclusions from cross-country comparisons of prices.

“South Africa offers one of the best ‘value for money’ in relation to mobile data services,” it said.

Read: MTN is changing the date some customers receive data

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The tough data price questions that MTN, Vodacom and others will have to answer