The cost to communicate in SA remain amongst the highest in the world
THE highly anticipated inquiry into high data costs is expected to start its work later this month, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele said.
“The Competition Commission has announced the commencement of its inquiry into the ICT market and the data market in particular from 18 September 2017 to 31 August 2018,” Cwele said.
He was responding in a parliamentary reply to a question asked by the IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe wanted to know if the department has made any progress in the past 12 months to reduce the cost to communicate in South Africa.
She says the cost to communicate in South Africa remained amongst the highest in the world.
According to Cwele, the inquiry would set a benchmark for South African data pricing against those of other countries.
“The intervention of the commission will include a clear understanding of the data services value chain.”
Cwele also said 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”.
This takes place against the finalisation of regulations aimed at helping reduce the cost of high data to communicate in South Africa.
Cwele said the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) was currently 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 gets depleted due to use.
Consumers will 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 2017,” Cwele said.
There has been complaints about the high data costs in South Africa and that the prices were unjustifiable, especially to the poor.
This has prompted a push for the reduction of data costs with Icasa saying the looming market inquiry into data costs would be able to help cut down the price.
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has set up an inquiry by the Competition Commission to investigate high data costs.
Cwele said there was no budget allocation that has been transferred to Icasa to address high cost of data.
“Icasa has budgeted for this area of work as reflected in its annual performance plan,” Cwele said.
This was after DA’s Cameron Mackenzie asked him about budget allocations for the expenditure to be incurred by the regulatory body to conduct enquiries to address the high cost of communication.