THE Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is considering a request by Cell C that the industry regulator conduct an urgent market review of interconnection regulations and to suspend a scheduled reduction of interconnect fees on Friday.
Cell C, South Africa’s third-largest cellphone network operator, confirmed it wanted Icasa to review market conditions “to determine the effectiveness of the call termination regulations and whether they have had the desired effect on reducing the cost to communicate in South Africa”.
The request comes at a time when cellphone firms, particularly Vodacom and Cell C, intend to outdo each other with lower-priced voice and data promotions for consumers.
Paseka Maleka, the spokesman for Icasa, confirmed that Cell C had met the regulator on Friday but said that the details of the discussion were not available.
“The Icasa council still has to deliberate on all the issues raised at a council meeting which is normally held on Tuesdays,” Maleka said.
The company also wanted the regulator to not reduce interconnection rates further to 44 cents as scheduled from Friday, pending the outcome of the market review.
It said if the rates were allowed to drop next month “without significant market power… then the ratio of asymmetry that smaller operators require to compete effectively with the dominant incumbents will not thereafter be realised”.
TechCentral, an online publication, first reported the story.
This reduction will be the final one as part of a three-year “glide path” programme, which Icasa introduced two years ago to cut the fees from 65c off peak and 73c on peak to 40c on and off peak, with the hope that this would stimulate market competition and result in lower prices for end consumers of cellphone services.
Cell C has also argued for further reductions of interconnection fees, beyond March 2014, for dominant cellular operators Vodacom and MTN, which are both listed on the local stock exchange.