ANC Bokone Bophirima calls for review on high data costs

The African National Congres (ANC) in Bokone Bophirima said it would like to see more efforts being put into reducing the high cost of data in country.
The party said this after the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) recently announced that mobile data would no longer expire and smartphone users can transfer data to family and friends who are on the same network provider.
ANC Provincial Spokesperson, Gerald Modise, said this is a step in the right direction, but it is important to then move to reviewing the high cost of data.
“We welcome the announcement by ICASA that data will not expire after buying it, that all citizens will be able to transfer data to colleagues, friends and family for convenience of communication. However, we are still not happy and want to indicate that more needs to be done by ICASA in making sure that they reduce the price of data in South Africa because we are still paying the highest price as compared to other countries like India and Nigeria,” said Modise.
The new regulations, set to be gazetted in the coming days, will require cellphone companies to: notify subscribers when their data falls below 50%, 80% and 100% depletion levels; to rollover unused data; to allow the transfer of data within a network and to stop charging expensive out-of-bundle rates without the knowledge of customers.
Advocacy group, Right2Know, welcomed ICASA’s announcement but said the communications authority should rather focus on ensuring that mobile network operators reduce the high cost of data. ICASA said it was not ready to make an announcement on when data costs would be reduced, but it will do so only after further consultation with the relevant stakeholders.
In the last set of draft regulations (published in November 2017), ICASA had proposed enforcing an expiry period of a minimum of three years for data bundles, but backed away from this position in the final regulations.
ICASA said network operators must also provide consumers with an option to transfer data to other end users, provided they are on the same network.  Furthermore, they must conduct educational awareness campaigns aimed at informing end users about the use of smartphones and how to use data.
It is up to service providers and network operators to determine the rules around data rollover, with communications regulator ICASA saying its new regulations dealing with data expiry are not “overly prescriptive” on the subject.
In practice, service providers, including mobile operators, will only have to roll over data for a period that is left entirely to their discretion.
“Our role as the regulator is to ensure that all South Africans have access to a wide range of communication services at affordable prices. In order achieve this, ICASA is mandated by Chapter 10 of the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) to ensure that there is competition in the sector. 

“In order to enhance this competition, the authority is required to follow an extensive regulatory process that includes consultation with all relevant stakeholders. The process involves defining markets, identification of licensees with significant market power (where the defined markets are found to be ineffectively competitive) and impose proportionate pro-competitive remedies, including price controls,” said ICASA in a statement.

In short, ICASA has regulatory powers to regulate competition in any of the markets within the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector of South Africa. This is only after following extensive market review processes highlighted in chapter 10 of the ECA.