What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom really mean

New call termination regulations from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), and MTN’s court action against them, has cast South Africa’s largest telecoms players in a war of words with one another.

Each has tried various tactics to sway public opinion to their side, ranging from simple press statements to guerilla marketing campaigns.

Reading through everything and trying to make sense of it all is somewhat daunting, however, so we have tried to summarise each operator’s position as briefly as possible.

Vodacom’s infographic

While it was MTN that initiated court proceedings against Icasa, Vodacom recently filed court papers of its own against Icasa’s call termination rate cuts.

Vodacom also recently published an infographic that neatly framed it’s objection to the new termination rate regulations.

Vodacom mobile termination rates infographic
Vodacom mobile termination rates infographic

In brief, Cell C and Telkom Mobile get to charge Vodacom (and MTN) more to connect calls to their networks than Vodacom (and MTN) get to charge them.

Vodacom doesn’t like this.

Spin translation: We’re actually mostly in agreement with MTN on this one, but man are we glad they took most of the flak for it.

Related article: MTN vs Icasa: others comment

MTN’s defence of its legal challenge

After threatening to do so, MTN lodged an application with the High Court against Icasa’s next round of call termination rate (CTR) cuts, specifically the mobile termination rates (MTRs).

When Cell C’s acting CEO wrote an open letter that was scathing of MTN, and the operator followed up with an advertising campaign lashing out at the yellow operator, MTN SA’s Zunaid Bulbulia hit back with a column of his own.

Spin translation: We are actually unhappy about the money (a billion, our bean counters say) that we’ll be handing to Cell C and Telkom, but to have a go at Icasa we have to attack the process they followed. We’re less happy about Cell C benefiting from MTRs than Telkom Mobile, though.

Related article: MTN hits back in termination rate fight

Cell C lashes out at MTN

Cell C has pulled no punches against MTN, and in a recent advertising campaign accused the yellow network of trying to keep prices high.

Acting CEO Jose Dos Santos wrote in an open letter that “MTN wants to choke the consumer further by refusing to accept regulatory intervention under law”.

While MTN and Vodacom have argued that a reduction in termination rates will not lead to a drop in prices, Cell C has maintained that they will.

However, Cell C has also said (outside its campaign against MTN, of course) that the retail price drops from this round of termination rate cuts will not be as significant as before.

Cell C has also vowed to “oppose MTN’s application in the strongest terms”.

Spin translation: We’re so deep in debt it isn’t funny. If we’re going to stay in the game at all we need help against the Big Bad Wolves. Go Icasa, go!

Related article: MTN stamps on low prices: Cell C CEO

Telkom

As the biggest benefactor of the call termination rate cuts, it wasn’t surprising that Telkom would support Icasa’s regulations.

However, while Cell C went right for MTN’s jugular, Telkom took a firm but more measured approach.

“This delay means that larger mobile operators will continue to enjoy favourable termination rates at Telkom’s expense especially if we consider that from 2001 to 2012 Telkom has subsidised these operators,” Telkom Group CEO, Sipho Maseko was quoted as saying.

Spin translation: MTN and Vodacom have been milking us for years. It’s about time the wheel turned.

Related article: Telkom wades into termination rate fight

Neotel

Neotel finds itself in the unfortunate position of benefiting from Icasa’s new CTR regulations while being in acquisition talks with Vodacom.

It could therefore be somewhat tricky for Neotel to draft a press statement which will welcome the rate cuts without upsetting its possible future master.

Spin translation: Just call us “Switzerland”.

Related article: MTN vs Icasa: others comment

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What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom really mean