Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in South Africa are not required to comply with new regulations on data rollover and out-of-bundle billing.
Cell C – the network many MVNOs run on – has said that as a result, subscribers should “vote with their feet” if their MVNO does not voluntarily comply with the regulations.
ICASA’s End User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations came into effect on 1 March and require licensed network providers to offer data rollover and transfers, and abide by out-of-bundle billing rules.
Operators are no longer allowed to bill you a different rate for out-of-bundle usage. If your data bundle is used up and they have different out-of-bundle and in-bundle rates, they must block you from further usage and ask whether you would like to proceed out of bundle.
ICASA then made a last-minute change to the regulations to explicitly state that MVNOs, resellers, and Internet of Things systems were exempt.
This means that while Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom are required to follow the rules, MVNOs such FNB Connect and me&you Mobile are not.
Regulation with the help of market forces
“We understand that it is technically very challenging to implement the regulations in the MVNO and reseller space and so ICASA found it necessary to apply this carve out for those service providers,” Cell C told MyBroadband.
“Consumers may initially be a bit confused, but can vote with their feet if they believe that they can get a better offering from licensees who are subject to the regulations.”
Stated differently: ICASA can only impose regulations on network providers that require one of its licences to operate, but that doesn’t matter because it has jurisdiction over the big four: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom.
By imposing consumer-friendly regulations on the mobile networks that all resellers and MVNOs have to use, it can rely on market forces to regulate the rest of the field.
One such service provider is FNB Connect. It recently explained how it voluntarily complied with the regulations and how its data rollover and transfer systems work.
“Our platforms would not impede the ability of the MVNOs and resellers in rolling out the requisite functionality,” Cell C told MyBroadband.
“However the MVNOs and resellers also have their own platforms that need to be configured and we do not have insight into the specific challenges that they may face.”