The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) says it will investigate the recently announced roaming agreement between MTN and Cell C.
In a statement on Tuesday (19 November), the regulator said that statements by the two mobile companies suggested that the arrangement does not require any regulatory approval. However, this is not the case it said.
“Acting in terms of the regulations on standard terms and conditions for individual licences, the authority has requested both parties to provide all the agreements and associated information on the roaming transaction to the Authority for review and to assess compliance with the applicable law and regulations.
“The question of whether any agreement that pertains to a regulated service or use of a licensed resource (such as spectrum) requires approval or triggers regulatory compliance requirements is one which the authority can never leave to the parties alone to determine,” says Icasa CEO, Willington Ngwepe.
Cell C and MTN concluded the roaming agreement as the former targets a turnaround.
In 2018, Cell C and MTN entered into an initial roaming agreement that provided 3G and 4G services in areas outside of the main metros. The expanded roaming agreement extends this coverage and gives nationwide roaming to the benefit of Cell C subscribers.
This roaming agreement will see Cell C’s 4G network coverage extended to 95% of the population. Cell C customers will have access to over 12,500 sites, of which 90% are LTE enabled.
Cell C CEO, Douglas Craigie Stevenson said: “This is a pivotal step in Cell C’s turnaround strategy. One of the key pillars of this turnaround is to implement a revised network strategy that enables Cell C to manage its network capacity requirements in a more cost-efficient and scalable manner.”
The agreement is in line with shifts in the global telecoms industry towards more cost-effective network strategies that drive down costs and deliver greater operational efficiencies that ultimately benefit consumers. There are already local examples of this type of roaming agreement in South Africa.
“This roaming agreement is transformative for Cell C. The company is no longer encumbered by the high costs of building a network footprint and we can focus our energy and efforts into developing innovative and disruptive service offerings that will be welcomed by data-hungry consumers. This is a win-win all round as it has long-term benefits for the economy, the industry and ultimately consumers,” said Craigie Stevenson.
The implementation of the expanded roaming agreement will commence in early 2020 and the transition is expected to take up to 36 months to complete.