Network operators are waiting from six months to over a year for the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to process routine licence transfer requests.
This is according to a statement issued by the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (Ispa) on Monday.
Companies like Internet service providers need a licence from Icasa to roll out network infrastructure or offer telecommunications services.
Ispa has called on the industry regulator to reconsider the extent to which it micromanages telecommunications companies.
It acknowledged that Icasa has an important role to play in transforming the ICT sector through the application of the ICT Sector Code and regulations mandating transformation through equity ownership.
“However, when it comes to commonplace business transactions within the industry, we believe the regulator is over-regulating by inserting itself into and delaying commercial deals involving the transfer of a licence or transfer of control over a licence,” said Ispa regulatory advisor Dominic Cull.
Cull said that transfers of ownership of or control over licences take Icasa up to 180 working days to process and cost an applicant in the region of R70,000 per licence.
Ispa members have told the industry association that they have experienced delays of more than a year to get Icasa’s approval for changes to internal shareholder arrangements.
“In practice, parties may reach a commercial agreement but must then wait for up to 180 working days to get approval from a regulator,” said Cull.
“This is clearly at odds with reasonable commercial practice and acts as an impediment to growth and transformation of the sector by disincentivising investment and entry into the sector.”
Ispa said that this kind of micromanagement may have been appropriate when the number of licensees was limited, but it is no longer necessary now that there are more than 500 individual licensees authorised to deploy networks and provide services across South Africa.
“The Competition Commission is well aware of levels of concentration of ownership and control in the sector and already plays the role of ensuring that transfer of ownership or control of a licence does not have anti-competitive effects — there is no need for ICASA to adopt an expansive attitude to its role,” stated Cull.
Ispa announced that it will lobby for any legislative changes which may be required to reduce Icasa’s role, but requests that Icasa in the meantime consider measures it can take to reduce the time needed to process applications for transfer of ownership or control over licenses.