Competition lacking in South Africa, find commission and regulator

Competition lacking in South Africa, find Commission and regulator

Competition in South Africa has come under scrutiny from both the country’s Competition Commission (CompCom) and regulator ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa).

After investigating the data services market, CompCom has called for operators to be prosecuted if they miss deadlines for reaching agreements with the country’s authorities. The commission has recommended that “Vodacom and MTN must reach an agreement with the commission on an immediate and substantial reduction in prices” to break the “concentration and duopoly” that is driving up data prices.

The commission has given both operators three months to reduce the prices of their pre-paid data bundles, and six months to implement the accounting separation of their wholesale networks. ICASA has also stipulated that national roaming agreements must use wholesale prices, and that roaming providers offering services to operators must do so at a lower rate than their own retail prices.

ICASA noted that uncompetitive wholesale pricing was creating substantial entry barriers for retail markets, stating “the market for site access in particular is highly concentrated in many municipalities, full-coverage roaming services are only offered by two operators, and only one operator offers MVNO services. Vodacom is dominant in 104 municipalities by itself, MTN is dominant in 18 by itself, and MTN and Vodacom are both dominant in two municipalities.”

With site access a particular issue, ICASA recommended revising regulations and expanding guidelines around leasing. Its suggestions include mandatory online listing of site information, greater oversight around the technical and financial viability of site-sharing, and a deadline on responses to access requests.

The regulator argued that adopting these proposals would “preclude the indefinite reserving of space on masts for the incumbent’s equipment”, thereby facilitating deployments for smaller players.