The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) has welcomed the recent focus that ICASA has placed on finalising regulations that will spur competition in the country’s telecommunications market.
The organisation said that ICASA’s publication of final regulations around carrier pre-selection, interconnection and facilities leasing during the course of the year will all help to foster a more competitive telecoms environment that will benefit consumers through wider choice and lower prices.
Said Ant Brooks, ISPA General Manager: “Our members have long been ready to take the fight to the incumbent carriers with the aim of driving prices down and bringing innovative new services and products to market.
‚With the development of a regulatory framework specifically to promote competition, they will be even better positioned to deliver lower costs and better services to telecoms users.””
When carrier pre-selection comes into effect over the next few months, consumers will be able to choose which carrier to use when making a call. This will give telecoms users opportunities to save money if they are willing to hunt for bargains, said Brooks.
The relevant regulations are described as ‚carrier pre-selection phase 1′ by ICASA. However they do not deal with true carrier pre-selection, which gives telecoms users the ability to can choose to have some of their calls automatically routed across the network of an alternate service to their default operator without needing to enter a special code or special equipment.
Instead, these regulations deal with carrier selection, defined as the ability to choose your service provider on a call by call basis simply by dialling a prefix each time you make a call using a provider other than your primary one.
The first carrier pre-selection offerings are likely to provide cheaper rates to international destinations. For example, a Telkom customer could enter into a carrier pre-selection agreement with a smaller provider that offers less expensive calls to countries where it has branches. Every time the business calls its branch, it will simply dial a four-digit code and enjoy the cheaper rate provided by the alternative provider.
Another example would be a Vodacom customer entering into a carrier selection agreement with Cell C. When that customer wants to make a call to a Cell C subscriber, he or she will be able to use Cell C as the service provider for that call and benefit from the lower costs of on-net calls.
“”We look forward to seeing the innovative packages and solutions our members will be able to offer their customers once the incumbents make their pricing known for this service,”” said Brooks.
Interconnection and facilities leasing
Brooks said that the draft interconnection and facilities leasing regulations lower the barriers to entry into the telecom market so that new entrants can compete more effectively with the established players.
Facilities leasing regulations, which provide for the sharing of fibre cables, base stations and other critical telecoms infrastructure, are especially important in increasing competition and efficiency across the industry, Brooks said.
“”We have long asked ICASA to take action on these pressing issues. We are happy that they are now getting the attention they deserve and, while there will no doubt be obstacles to effective implementation of the regulations, we believe that the regulator is making a difference,”” he stated.
Brooks concluded: ‚The regulations finalised to date create a framework for competition but there is still scope for anti-competitive pricing given that ICASA has not yet finalised any cost regulations under the ECA, and we wish to call on the regulator to achieve this as soon as possible.‚