Resistance ‘will not retard reform’

Network service providers who won’t play ball when it comes to telecoms regulatory reform may find the political and regulatory environment constraining, says Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) chairman Paris Mashile.

Mashile was addressing delegates at the second telecoms colloquium hosted by the Department of Communications in Midrand yesterday.

Emphasising the fact that Icasa’s mandate was rooted in the law, he said the regulator would continue to do what it can to stimulate competition in the ICT sector, including introducing safeguards to ensure all operators have equitable access to infrastructure.

He said Icasa should also examine interconnection charges, which need to be lowered to reduce service providers’ operational costs. Icasa will also determine guidelines for interconnection and promote industry working groups to address the issue.

Mashile argued that while some may claim that mobile prices are competitive, there is no price elasticity. Therefore, the mobile environment still cannot be considered to be competitive.

He questioned whether mobile operators recently reduced their tariffs to assist in the lowering of telecoms, or whether it was simply to relieve some of the peak-hour congestion. If it was the latter, it would have been more beneficial if the off-peak period were extended, he noted.

Deputy communications minister Roy Padayachie addressed the issue of investor confidence in the telecoms market despite the changes taking place. Referring to statements that allude to the question of "threats", he stated: "Where markets fail, government will not hesitate to intervene."

Padayachie said intervention would be done in a sensitive manner, and issues and considerations from investors would be taken into consideration, but the reform would still take place.

The poor cherish a need for a better life as much as investors cherish returns on investment, he said.

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Resistance ‘will not retard reform’