Vodacom and MTN must reveal real data prices

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has published draft mobile broadband service regulations that aim to ensure that Vodacom and MTN charge fair prices for mobile data in South Africa.

ICASA said that these regulations follow its market inquiry into mobile broadband services.

“The purpose of these regulations is to amongst others, impose appropriate pro-competitive license conditions on those licensees having significant market power to remedy the market failure; and provide for monitoring and investigation of anti-competitive behaviour,” ICASA stated.

The draft regulations state that MTN and Vodacom are dominant in South Africa’s mobile data retail market, and upstream markets like infrastructure access and wholesale national roaming.

To address this, the regulations require Vodacom and MTN to do the following with respect to infrastructure sharing and wholesale services:

  • Keep a record of infrastructure sites where another operator asked for access and was granted access within 20 business days.
  • Keep a record of sites where access was not approved within 20 business days.
  • A list of all sites and all charges for sharing any macro site infrastructure.
  • Provide a quarterly report showing effective prices paid for wholesale roaming services, and data volumes used per site.

Regarding prices, the regulations require the following on a quarterly basis:

  • A report on effective retail prices paid by end users, calculated by dividing total revenue for data with total volume of data used (in Gigabytes).
  • A report on effective retail prices paid by end users, split according to specific segments:
    • Data used between 05:00 and 00:00 (“anytime”)
    • Data used between 00:00 and 05:00 (“night owl”)
    • By prepaid, hybrid, and postpaid customer segments
    • By consumer and business customer segments
    • By province, and within provinces, by urban and rural
    • Excluding fixed wireless, wholesale, mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), and enterprise traffic
  • A report showing the effective wholesale prices paid by MVNOs and resellers. Where the retail price is below these wholesale prices, Vodacom and MTN must give detailed and fully auditable evidence to ICASA explaining why.

“As such, the Authority will monitor retail prices and wholesale prices, and in particular monitor for margin squeeze, which the Competition Commission has indicated it will prosecute if wholesale rates are above effective retail rates,” ICASA said.

Anyone interested in commenting on the regulations have 30 working days from 26 March 2021 to send their submissions to ICASA.

The draft regulations are embedded below.

In a related matter, ICASA’s Mobile Broadband Services Market Inquiry features in the legal challenge brought against ICASA by Telkom, which has resulted in the delay of the auctioning of sought-after radio frequency spectrum.

Telkom argued that ICASA went ahead with the process to invite operators to apply for the spectrum without first finishing its market inquiry. Telkom contends that this was unlawful and irrational.

Now read: Good news for mobile operators as temporary spectrum is extended

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Vodacom and MTN must reveal real data prices