He was responding to a parliamentary question from the IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe, who wanted to know if the department had made any progress in the past 12 months to reduce the cost of communicating in South Africa.
According to her, the cost was among the highest in the world.
Cwele said the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) was working on mechanisms to regulate the expiry of data bundles.
“Initial interventions will ensure provisions to ensure that all segments of data bundles do not automatically expire after 30 days but have a cascading scale, as proposed in Icasa’s draft regulations.”
He also said the industry would be required to inform consumers as data got depleted due to use. Consumers would be allowed an option to choose whether to purchase more data bundles as opposed to the usual default to out-of-bundle rates.
“The final regulations will be in place by the end of October,” Cwele said.
There had been complaints about the high data costs in South Africa and that the prices were unjustifiable, especially to the poor. This prompted a push for the reduction of data costs, with Icasa saying the looming market inquiry into data costs would force down prices.
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has set up an inquiry by the Competition Commission to investigate high data costs.
During his parliamentary response, Cwele said:“The intervention of the commission will include a clear understanding of the data services value chain.”
There would also be an assessment “to identify areas of market power where consumers may be exploited and to identify any structural, behavioural and regulatory factors that may influence pricing”.
Cwele said this would help benchmark South African data pricing against that of other countries.
He also said no budget allocation had been transferred to Icasa to address the high cost of data. This was after the DA’s Cameron Mackenzie asked him about budget allocations for the expenditure to be incurred by the regulatory body to conduct inquiries to address the high cost of communication.