The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) recently amended the universal service obligations of MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Neotel, which form part of their radio frequency licenses.
These obligations were published in the Government Gazette on Wednesday, 4 June 2014, and also included details on what the operators had done in fulfilling their previous obligations.
Previously, mobile operators – MTN, Vodacom, and Cell C – were required to provide handsets and SIM cards, in addition to Internet access, to schools; however, this requirement has been dropped in the amended regulations.
The table below summarises the number of handsets, schools connected to networks, and community service telephones operators rolled-out under the previous obligations:
|Community service telephones||75,000||118,000||52,000||N/A|
Under the amended regulations, mobile operators will no longer be required to supply handsets and SIM cards.
Icasa has also reduced the number of schools the operators have to roll out Internet services to.
“The Authority has established that it is necessary for internet access obligation to be amended in order for school connectivity to be implemented and carried out effectively,” Icasa said in the amendment.
According to Icasa, the mobile operators must now connect 1,500 public schools over 5 years, as well as 140 institutions for people with disabilities (IWD). If an IWD is also a public school then it will count towards both totals.
Icasa will identify 300 schools for each operator to connect per year; in the event that an operator can connect more than 300 public schools, Icasa said it can provide a further allocation.
Neotel, on the other hand, must connect 750 public schools over 5 years, as well as 140 institutions for people with disabilities (IWD).
Similar to the mobile operators, 150 schools will be identified every year for Neotel to connect, and if the company can connect more than that, Icasa can allocate more.
In the regulations, Icasa specifed that services to identified schools must be provided at a discounted rate, with the balance being paid by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa, as stated under section 73 of the Electronic Communications Act.
The cost of maintaining the network connection to the schools is for the operators’ pocket, and remains their responsibility for as long as they have their license to offer network services in South Africa.
Icasa approved these Universal Service License obligation amendments on 18 March 2014 and are effective from 1 April 2014.