Hiding the truth from SA consumers

Vodacom, MTN and Cell C slated the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) after it published its first mobile quality and service report in July 2011, and were successful in stalling any further reports until a test methodology document was finalized.

ICASA’s first quality survey found that Vodacom, MTN and Cell C had failed to meet the minimum requirements for ‘Call Set Up Success Rate’ (CSSR) and ‘Dropped Call Rate’ (DCR).

The three mobile operators attacked ICASA after this report, questioning the accuracy of the tests and the methodology used in the survey.

The fallout from the report resulted in a discussion between ICASA and the mobile operators where it was decided that no further reports would be published until a testing methodology document was finalized.

The methodology development is handled under the auspices of SABS TC74 WG2, of which the mobile operators and ICASA are members.

Fast forward eighteen months and there is still no testing methodology document, and no further mobile quality service reports have been released.

Drop Call Rate
Drop Call Rate from July 2011 ICASA report

Burying information in a bureaucratic mess

It is no secret that South Africa’s large telecoms players have been using bureaucratic procedures and calls for more research as a way to delay regulatory processes.

It is therefore possible that Vodacom, MTN and Cell C could have called for the creation of a mobile quality testing methodology document, and then used their presence at the SABS TC74 WG2 working group to delay this process.

Vodacom, MTN and Cell C were asked whether their call for a new testing methodology was merely a stalling tactic to stop ICASA from publishing reports which do not look good for them. Not one of the operators answered this question.

MTN and Cell C would also not say whether they are in favour of a quarterly report by ICASA on the mobile network quality.

Richard Boorman
Richard Boorman

Vodacom did say that they “very much support the development of a testing standard for measuring network quality”.

“We’ve been working closely with ICASA and the SABS on this, and we’ve provided input on the draft standard,” said Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman.

The mobile operator said that it is a necessary process as the testing reported in July 2011 was flawed in that the limited localised tests used were not representative of an operator’s entire network and the issues experienced could not be replicated or ascribed to a particular network.

“We submit network quality reports to ICASA on a six-monthly basis which take into account network quality across the entire network as opposed to a limited number of spot checks. As per the most recent data submitted, network availability was 99.5% and service availability was 99.4%,” said Boorman.

ICASA also to blame?

While the mobile operators may be partly to blame for stopping the quarterly network quality reports, one industry player said that ICASA is to blame for the delays.

According to the industry source, who asked not to be named, the regulator is the main cause for the delay in establishing a suitable testing methodology.

He added that a lack of resources at the regulator meant that some important steps to test the quality of service of mobile networks did not happen.

ICASA has had enough

ICASA has been criticized in the past for being toothless and bowing to pressure from the large telecoms operators. However, the regulator seems to have had enough of the testing methodology delays.

“The process [of creating a testing methodology document] has not proceeded as fast as ICASA would have preferred, and the Authority has taken the decision to proceed with the publishing of our drive test results once again this year, while still contributing to the SABS process,” said ICASA.

ICASA said it intends to publish new mobile quality of service reports by March 2013.

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Mobile network quality: ICASA versus Operators

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Hiding the truth from SA consumers