In the past year, tech and telecommunications companies in South Africa have battled one another, government agencies, and the industry regulator in court and in the media.
Some of the biggest battles in the local tech industry are listed below.
ICASA conducted an inquiry into the South African pay-TV industry and suggested several remedies to address MultiChoice’s dominance.
MultiChoice appealed to ICASA not to introduce regulations such as forcing it to offer its SuperSport content to other broadcasters, saying that DStv as a satellite pay TV service was already operating on borrowed time.
It stated that over-regulating will hand the South African market to global online streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.
The broadcaster also argued that if ICASA insists on regulating the market further, Netflix must be subject to the same regulations.
ICASA introduced new End-User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations which prohibited all Internet service providers, including mobile networks, from charging subscribers for out-of-bundle usage without consent.
The regulations also require that networks offer the ability to roll over unused data, and allow for the transfer of data to another subscriber on the same network.
ICASA gave operators a month to comply with the new regulations, and declined a request to extend the deadline. Cell C applied for an urgent interdict to get the deadline extended. The matter was finally settled out of court nearly six months later.
Despite assurances to the contrary from the government, the initial draft of an amendment to the Electronic Communications Act proposed taking back spectrum from licensed operators to give to a wholesale open access network (WOAN).
Wireless operators opposed this, and while the final bill excluded this provision, it does require that operators get permission to refarm spectrum, and open up their networks should they be assigned new “high-demand” spectrum.
After a protracted public battle between the Eastern Cape and SITA, the Constitutional Court ruled that the provincial government did not act within the law when it “piggy-backed” on a Western Cape tender and appointed Liquid Telecom as its broadband provider.
The legal battle between Nkosana Makate and Vodacom over the invention of the Please Call Me got messy this year. As per a Constitutional Court ruling, Vodacom group CEO Shameel Joosub is yet to determine a suitable settlement amount.
Makate’s supporters have displayed signs over the N1 highway, at FNB Stadium, and in malls outside Vodacom stores.
There is an ongoing battle between network operators over their compliance with ICASA’s regulations on toll free calling. All operators who offer voice services are required to conclude agreements with one another regarding the tariffs they charge to reverse-bill toll free calls.
However, the main issue is the price mobile networks charge for connecting subscribers to toll-free numbers compared their call rates and the wholesale termination rates as set by ICASA.
ZADNA is locked in a battle with the ZACR over the cost of .co.za domain registrations. ZADNA issued a request for submissions regarding a review of the wholesale fee structure for .ZA domains.
Parliament vs legislation
In the past year, Parliament has approved the Internet Censorship bill and the Cybercrimes Bill, both of which were heavily criticised and modified, and are still considered unworkable by legal experts.
The government has also declined to consider proposals to create regulations for online gambling, and instead wants to go after South Africans who gamble online by confiscating their winnings.