The electronic communications sector is now one of the most advanced infrastructure and services sectors on the African continent. However, it has had a propensity towards low levels of competition among telecoms operators. Advances in the sector include the opening up of the undersea cable markets to competition, the evolution of broadband markets, and high-speed broadband including Gigabit Internet. This gives rise to questions such as: To what extent is the electronic communications sector providing advanced infrastructures and services for communications that will impact well on transformation in other economic and social sectors – financial; real estate and business services; travel and tourism; business process outsourcing; the media; and audio-visual and entertainment sectors? And, to what extent is electronic communications infrastructure providing the networks for advanced research collaboration among African scholars and their American (North and South), Asian, Australian or European counterparts via dedicated national/regional research and education networks (NRENs and RRENs)? So many challenges remain for policy-making and for regulators, including the urgent need for regulation of radio- frequency spectrum for mobile communications and mobile data access; digital migration in the broadcast sector; pricing of electronic communications services; regulation of mobile money transactions; consumer protection in mobile money environments; and broader challenges of regulating for the digital economy, including the appropriate regulation of environments that will promote e-health services and other initiatives in the transformation of economies and society.
Browsing AJIC Issue 14, 2015 by Subject "telecommunications, spectrum, LLU, local loop unbundling, regulator performance, economic regulation"
(LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, 2015-12-15) Hawthorne, Ryan
South Africa’s electronic communications sector regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), has a mixed track record in carrying out its mandate. ICASA is part of a regulatory system for the telecommunications sector, that may be characterised as dysfunctional for the following reason: ICASA is not sufficiently independent from government. While regulated entities are generally partially state owned, this does create a conflict of interest for government. Nonetheless, ICASA has had some successes, where the interests of state-owned enterprises coincide with those of consumers. Its interventions in markets for voice services during the course of Telkom Mobile’s entry into the market, for example, have resulted in retail voice price reductions of more than 30%. Now that problems relating to voice services markets have largely been resolved through the call termination rate intervention, ICASA needs to shift its focus to markets for broadband services in order to ensure that South Africa becomes more competitive relative to its peers through unbundling the local loop and assigning spectrum for broadband. In order to achieve this, Telkom needs to be fully privatised in order to reduce government pressure to delay local loop unbundling (LLU) and Telkom’s wholesale and retail fixed-line operations should be functionally separated. ICASA needs to be further insulated from political interference and be properly resourced through industry levies and fees. Furthermore, a single appellate body for economic regulators ought to be established in order to improve accountability of the regulators and improve outcomes in the sector.