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JOHANNESBURG – The Internet Service Providers' Association (Ispa)  regulatory advisor Dominic Cull has criticised the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) new call termination rates.

This comes after Icasa announced last week that it has concluded its three-year investigation into call termination rates.

“Icasa’s review of the 2014 Call Termination Regulations has been greeted with silence by the incumbent mobile networks, which is telling us this is an anti-competitive rate regime that favours large operators,” says Dominic Cull, Ispa regulatory advisor.

Call termination rates are the fees telephony service providers pay each other to terminate voice calls made by a subscriber of one service provider to a subscriber of another service provider.

“Where in the world do we find a regulator that takes more than 36 months to complete a notionally pro-competitive intervention and come up with a regime which has obvious anti-competitive consequences?”, asks Cull. 

According to Cull, Icasa’s decision to eliminate asymmetric rates which favour smaller operators directly contradicts its own position that its interventions to date in this market had failed to facilitate greater competition.

“We will examine with interest the reasons set out by the regulator for taking a different approach (although we note that no reasons document has been published). Icasa claims that this intervention will lower the cost to communicate, but we see it’s recent actions and inactions as having the opposite effect,” said Cull. 

Cull states that this is only one example of the ineffectiveness of Icasa in promoting competition in the voice market.

Other examples include:

  • Icasa’s decision to exempt calls originating outside of South Africa from regulated call termination rates, which has seen these rates increase to as high as R3.30 ex VAT per minute.
  • Icasa’s failure to intervene in the call origination market, which has meant the failure of carrier pre-selection and additional costs for consumers calling toll-free numbers such as Life Line or Child Line.
  • Icasa’s failure to finalise a framework for porting non-geographic numbers such as 0800 and 0860 numbers, strengthening the dominance of Telkom.