Between 1999 and 2004, Telkom’s monopoly of access to crucial international bandwidth and high-speed ADSL lines meant they could freely charge ISPs excessive fees. And they did. Inevitably, this left them with no choice but to pass costs on to their customers,.
We demanded a competitive market, and aggressively lobbied to have Telkom’s wholesale and retail divisions separated to end its monopoly. Under those conditions, we believed that South Africa’s economy and its citizens could not fully realise the benefit of the Internet.
It was a long, tough battle, and it was a great day – I remember it very well – when in 2012 the Competition Commission ruled that Telkom was engaged in ‘bullying’ and ‘anti-competitive’ business practises.
Does industry not want a competitive, fair and level playing field?
To my frustration, both in and outside the context of the wholesale open access network (WOAN) debate, it appears that our local telecommunications industry is working against what should be the bedrock of our industry – a competitive, fair and level playing field. Companies with vested interests in their smaller monopolies are cocooning themselves in legal posturing, adopting a protectionist stance for short-term financial gains.
South Africa’s Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are nervous about the WOAN model proposed by government and are vocal in their opposition. The irony is that the conventional MNO is starting to sound like and resemble our old fixed line operator.
Arguably, what the MNOs are trying to protect are new business models that establish themselves as ISPs. This is a natural evolution of a telecommunications landscape once dominated by ‘voice’ services that are history compared to the demand for Internet connectivity and data.
The era of wireless communications
As we continue to communicate for work and play in a new era of wireless communications, the market must open up. Indeed, it is vital that Internet access is unbundled from other value-chain activities. It happened with Telkom, and now it must happen in the mobile space.
I have no doubt that this will stimulate opportunities for new competitors, deliver better pricing, and usher in a more competitive, fairer marketplace. The winners will be South Africa and South Africans.
Achieving the outcomes of the ICT policy white paper
Let’s stop being side-tracked by the obsession with spectrum. In a country like South Africa, the communication needs of wide-spread rural communities and more densely-populated cities means that newer technologies like 5G cannot simply take over from legacy wireless systems like 3G and even 2G. They will still exist alongside for many years to come.
Any qualified engineer in the industry will tell you that there’s enough spectrum. The key is how we use it – or indeed abuse it.
If more competition – to reduce the cost of data and services, increase access to the Internet and stimulate economic development – really is government’s aim, as stated in the 2016 ICT policy white paper, then a WOAN is not the answer.
After all, no matter who or what kind of enterprise holds a monopoly, network monopolies bring high prices. This is a barrier to access for many South Africans, and negatively impacts the economy and society. The fundamentals of economics dictate that competition reduces abuse of market dominance, and produces exactly the price and service results that government wants.
A WOAN is not the answer, but many WOANs may well be.
I propose that MNOs are compelled to completely separate their wholesale and retail businesses as a first step towards achieving the desired outcomes detailed in government’s ICT policy white paper. This wholesale / retail divorce has sound precedence that should not be ignored. At a wholesale level, there’ll be full price transparency, and all ISPs will be able to compete fairly at a retail level.
By compelling MNOs to fully separate their wholesale and retail businesses, we achieve several positive outcomes:
- Industry entrants and existing players that do not own their own infrastructure can build their businesses on the investments made by others, increasing the depth of the market and providing consumers – be they individuals who still want voice services or large enterprises wholly dependent on fibre – with all the benefits of more competition and choice;
- Entities that own infrastructure still profit from their investments, encouraging further development of the industry and maintenance of South Africa’s network, which, when compared to much of the continent, is far superior;
- A WOAN controlled by a government- or industry-body could be launched in parallel with leftover spectrum. This will create a comparative environment that allows all the industry to evaluate the viability of the model for our market;
- There is reduced opportunity for any industry player to ingratiate itself with the body managing the WOAN for spectrum or any other market advantage; and
- Allocation of spectrum to those operators that want it – through application or auction – will not be delayed because of a prolonged industry consultation that must precede any significant policy shift.
The commercial interests of South Africa’s MNOs and ISPs are not at odds with government’s ideals of accessible, affordable, quality internet connectivity and communications services for all citizens.
We all share these ideals, but they are only achievable in a commercially-sound business environment. Regulation must be formulated in the interests of consumers and within a legislative framework that prevents market abuse and eliminates barriers to entry. It must embrace, encourage, and stimulate competition, which gives local, even neighbourhood, operators an opportunity to thrive if they develop compelling product and service offerings that perhaps national service providers cannot.
Since its inception in 1993, Internet Solutions has been championing a fair and competitive market and we are not going to stop. We believe that it is not only our duty, but also the duty of the entire telecommunications industry to fight for the right of South Africa to enjoy all the social and economic benefits of the Internet that come about when it is accessible and affordable to all.
I am not convinced that a WOAN can give South Africa these things, but WOANS can.
Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com
This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.
Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.
What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.
However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.
As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.
It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.
The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.
To enter the competition follow the steps below:
Competition entry details:
3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.
4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.
5. The competition is only open to South African residents.
Happy Emoji Day! Here’s 10 reasons to be cheerful
First created by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999, the emoji has become a huge part of everyday communication. Whether you love them or hate them, flying dollar bills, applauding hands and rolling eyes are here to stay.
Scientist suggest that the use of emojis will help us gain the same satisfaction from digital interactions as we enjoy from personal contact.
Almost two decades later, and we have over 2600 unique emojis to perfectly express what we feel, thank you Mr Kurita! Join HMD, the home of Nokia phones as we celebrate World Emoji Day on the 17th of July with these interesting emoji facts:
The most popular emoji used is “Person Shrugging”
1. The Nokia 3310 was chosen as one of the first 3 “National” emojis for Finland… it represents unbreakable!
2. South Africa’s favourite emoji is the “Kiss and wink”… how sweet SA!
3. French is the only language where a ‘smiley’ does not top the list for its use
4. On average, over 60 billion emojis are sent on Facebook every day
5. For the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was a pictograph! The “Face with Tears of Joy” was crowned word of the year in 2015
6. According to Emojipedia, some of the most requested emoji’s include afro, a bagel and hands making a heart
7. To include all races, a diversity pack was released in 2017
8. It has become so trendy that the Museum of Modern Art displays the original emoji collection on canvas
9. In 2009, Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick was completely translated into emoji’s