Friday, February 12, 2010

South Africa - It’s official! Icasa approves cellphone fee cut

[tech central] It’s official! The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has approved revised applications from Vodacom, MTN and Cell C: mobile interconnection rates, the fees they charge each other and other operators to carry calls on their networks, will fall from R1,25/minute to 89c/minute in peak times on 1 March.

Off-peak rates will remain unchanged at 77c/minute.

The regulator’s decision follows high drama last week when it rejected filings from the mobile operators. Icasa was unhappy about a clause that sought to control the speed at which interconnection rates would fall between now and 2013. Icasa refused to entertain the operators earlier submissions, forcing them to refile their applications this week.

Though the cut is good news, it’s not yet clear how quickly it will filter down into retail cellular tariffs. Some analysts have expressed doubt that the mobile operators will pass on the benefits of the lower rates to consumers.

Icasa says in a statement, released on Wednesday evening, that is has approved the operators’ applications as they contain no “suspensive resolutive conditions that bind the authority or its processes”.

Icasa says it expects the reduction in interconnection rates will be passed on to consumers, though it provides no explanation for why it thinks this might happen.

“The authority has informed the three mobile operators that they are obliged to renegotiate all interconnection agreements they have with other licensees based on the non-discrimination principle in clause 8 of the interconnection guidelines of 2000,” Icasa says in a statement.

“Once these had been renegotiated, such interconnection agreements must still be filed with the authority for approval.

“While these measures are being implemented, the authority will continue with its processes of introducing competition in the wholesale call termination market with the intent of lowering the costs of communications in SA.

“To this end, the authority will release draft wholesale call termination regulations in March 2010, and subject these to public and stakeholder input before it publishes the final regulations by the end of June 2010. These processes will, at a minimum, take a stance on the effectiveness of competition in the wholesale call termination market.”

It’s official! Icasa approves cellphone fee cut

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