|Expect a regulatory storm|
Friday, 30 October 2009 02:00
Mobile operators will face a storm of regulations by the middle of next year that could have a dramatic impact on the industry.
Speaking during a media briefing yesterday, acting Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) chairman Robert Nkuna said the regulator is finalising other regulations that will complement its plans for lowering interconnect rates.
The regulator is following processes to have interconnect regulations published by the end of its financial year, or June 2010.
While interconnect is currently in the spotlight, many companies have said that, without other regulatory measures, lower interconnect will do little to promote competition in the telecoms industry.
However, at yesterday`s briefing, ICASA councillor Fungai Sibanda said carrier preselect (CPS) regulations will be finalised by the end of the year.
Internationally, CPS has been used as a regulatory measure to promote telecoms competition in countries that have small emerging players and large incumbent fixed-line monopolies. It is for the most part followed by local loop unbundling (LLU), an issue that has long been on ICASA`s agenda.
The system essentially allows users to choose which provider any given call is carried by, by dialling a prefix code to a telephone number.
While these regulations are primarily applied to the fixed-line industry, local alternative players are fighting to have the mobile operators included in the regulations. Mobile penetration is far higher than fixed-line, and smaller players say the regulations will make little difference, if they are not applied to the mobile operators.
Sibanda said the next set of regulations that will follow is LLU, and ICASA plans to have the research around the regulations completed by the end of the year.
LLU opens up access to the last mile infrastructure for all telecoms providers, giving them access to customers from the exchange points. Telkom currently owns all the copper last mile access to homes in SA.
While, once again, Telkom will bear the brunt of the regulations, smaller alternative telcos plan to fight to have the wireless local loop unbundled. This will allow smaller players access to both copper and mobile infrastructure.
According to Sibanda, the regulator is also looking at reviewing the regulations that govern mobile number portability (MNP). MNP has been considered an outright failure, with not even half a million customers porting since its inception.
The regulator hopes to improve the effectiveness of the solution. However, Sibanda did not indicate whether the regulator had decided to accelerate MNP`s land-based counterpart. Geographic number portability (GNP) will help smaller operators to migrate large corporates onto their networks, allowing them to keep their numbers.
GNP is expected to begin in earnest in February next year, when blocks of 1 000 numbers become open for porting.
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