JOHANNESBURG  - A provisional report into data services in South Africa will be released at the end of the month, the Competition Commission said on Tuesday.

The commission initiated a market inquiry into data services in August 2017 and held public hearings in October 2018. Spokesman Sipho Ngwenya said the March 2019 deadline for the inquiry had to be extended to 31 December 2019 to further analyse the extensive evidence the commission gathered.

''The Commission initiated a market inquiry into Data Services in South Africa in terms of Chapter 4A of the Competition Act because it has reason to believe that there are features of the sector that prevent, distort or restrict competition, or to achieve the purposes of the Act. In terms of section 43B(5) of the Act, the Commission may, by way of an amendment to the terms of reference, amend the scope of the inquiry, or the time within which the inquiry is expected to be completed, by further notice in the Gazette.''

''However, having regard to the comments, submissions and information gathered by the inquiry to date, the commission has decided to further amend the completion date. This is to allow for further analysis of extensive evidence gathered, further consultations with key stakeholders and to finalise a report of its investigation,'' Ngwenya said in a statement.

Data pricing in South Africa ranks as the highest in the continent and has come under attack on social media platforms as users demand cheaper data services. The #DataMustFall campaign targeted network operators to lower prices and allow internet access for all. In 2016,  Parliament's portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services heard submissions on behalf of consumers on expensive data and how it remained unaffordable in South Africa. 

- African News Agency (ANA)