File picture: Boxer Ngwenya
Parliament – Ministers in the International Co-operation, Trade and Security cluster are pushing for the reduction of data costs in South Africa.

Postal and Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele said on Sunday they would be meeting with operators in a bid to bring down the cost of data.

In addition, they want to open up the market to small players, to create competition and force the reduction in the prices.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said this was a regional plan at Southern African Development Community (SADC) level, but they want to implement it in South Africa immediately.

In SADC, moves are already afoot to meet with operators to bring down roaming costs.

She said President Jacob Zuma also made this clear in his State of the Nation address, saying the government was concerned about high data prices. “President Zuma announced in the SONA that the government and the regulatory institutions will continue to focus on efforts to reduce the cost of communication, including data.”

Cwele said in East Africa, a “home and away” roaming product had been introduced by operators, which had no effect on profits.

As a matter of fact, operators experienced an increase in volume in the domestic market, he said.

Last year, the government spent R40 million in the roll-out of wi-fi across various municipalities.

The government has asked the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to conduct a study on the cost of data, with a particular focus on competition.

This study would be completed this year, he said.

Last year, the Cabinet approved a policy that would allow SMMEs access to the data and wi-fi market, Cwele said. “It is only when you have competitive service providers that you will bring the cost of data down.” Last year, the communications portfolio committee held roadshows to get public input about the cost of data and communications. It was widely agreed among citizens and MPs that the cost of data was far too high.

Political Bureau