Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel recently stated that bringing data prices down will be a priority for the government in 2018.
Patel said the price of data will come down, following a competition market inquiry into data services.
National Treasury directed the Competition Commission to investigate data prices in 2017, and it is looking to identify areas where consumers may be exploited or excluded.
President Cyril Ramaphosa also said that increased competition and lower communications prices are high on his agenda.
“We will finalise our engagements with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the allocation of spectrum reduces barriers to entry, promotes competition, and reduces the cost to consumers,” he said.
It will ultimately be up to mobile operators to reduce their prices, however, and MyBroadband asked Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom to share their views on the matter.
MTN – Data costs should continue to be reduced
MTN said data costs should continue to be reduced through “continued competitive activity and the release of the high-demand spectrum our industry so desperately needs”.
“The spectrum crunch that mobile operators are currently experiencing remains a significant impediment to further driving down the cost of data,” said MTN.
This is because in this spectrum-constrained environment, mobile operators are setting aside huge amounts of money to further densify existing networks to meet the growing demand for data.
“Operators will have no option but to intensify refarming the existing spectrum to cope with the ever-growing urban demand for data,” said MTN.
As a consequence of this, data costs will not be driven down – with the impact being worst felt by South Africa’s most economically-marginalised communities.
MTN said spectrum availability will drive down data costs, increase broadband connectivity, and stimulate job creation.
Cell C – Much can be done to reduce the cost of data
Cell C said that as an industry, much can be done to reduce the cost of data.
“In order for competition to thrive and data costs to come down, we need to reduce the input costs of data – the single biggest input cost being the rollout of infrastructure,” said Cell C.
“That is why we support the implementation of a national broadband network (WOAN) and want to see more cooperation between mobile operators in terms of infrastructure sharing.”
Cell C said it already offers extremely-competitive data rates, and that in the past financial year the price of data per MB on its network decreased by over 36%.
“We will continue to do what we can to offer customers fantastic value.”
Telkom – We have drastically reduced the cost to communicate
Telkom said it has ensured that it drastically reduces the cost to communicate and broadens access to ICT services for South Africans.
“Our strategy for doing this has included pricing as well other initiatives, such as zero-rating the data on selected OTT services in order to bring the consumer’s total cost of mobile data down,” said Telkom.
This includes the launch of its FreeMe products in July 2016, which feature R0.29c-per-MB data rates.
“We followed up FreeMe with the launch of FreeMe Family, which allows consumers to allocate and share data within their household,” said Telkom.
Telkom said there is also an opportunity to make access to content more affordable.
“As such, the introduction of our LIT services is intended to further reduce overall household data costs.”
“Our newest service, Telkom LIT, allows consumers to stream content from major operators to their devices without affecting their data allowance.”
Telkom added that the initiatives it is taking are aimed at bringing about data cost reductions for customers.
Vodacom – More needs to be done to lower voice and data rates
Vodacom said more needs to be done to lower voice and data rates in South Africa.
“We will continue to bring down prices. Our pricing transformation strategy, which we embarked on over three years ago, continues to deliver greater value for our 41.6 million South African customers,” said Vodacom.
“For instance, the 10.9% and 24.2% decline in effective voice and data prices respectively over the six months ended 30 September 2017 reflects our commitment to driving down the cost to communicate in South Africa.”
It said that effective data and voice prices have been reduced by over 40% a piece in the past three years.
“We remain of the opinion that greater access to spectrum will give South Africans faster speeds, wider access to LTE coverage and, inevitably, lower data prices.”