Draft Electronic Communications Amendment Bill
The Department intends holding public hearings at which selected respondents to the Bill will be invited to present on 6 and 7 March at the Lombardy Boutique Hotel in Pretoria. A total of 43 written submissions were received. Venue and time details as well as the agenda/order of presentations are set out in the “Invitation to Stakeholder Consultative Workshop” in the next column.
Invitation to Stakeholder Consultative Workshop | South African Communications Forum (submission on the Bill) | Telecoms bill is a disaster, MTN warns | DOC split ‘set the sector back 10 years’ | ECA Bill gives DTPS minister too much power
Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN)
A media report on Telkom’s submission on the Amendment Bill reveals that they are in support of all currently unassigned spectrum being assigned to the WOAN. This indicates a significant split between the positions adopted by the incumbent operators: while they all agree that they must be allowed to retain their current spectrum holdings, MTN and Vodacom are unequivocally opposed to not being afforded the opportunity to obtain more high-demand spectrum. The irony of Telkom’s support for the radical open access provisions in the Amendment Bill threatens to surprise until one realises that this support is limited to mobile networks and not extended to fixed line networks “in which there is already sufficient competition”. [Note the entry on ICASA’s priority markets exercise below – ICASA clearly do not agree with this statement.] Interestingly, the Economist has published a piece that a WOAN might not be such a bad idea….
Give all unassigned spectrum to the Woan: Telkom | Ramaphosa ‘must scrap monopoly Woan’ idea | A national 5G wireless network is not such a stupid idea
State of the Nation Address
Amongst a plethora of new initiatives set out in the SONA, the President announced the formation of a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission:
Our prosperity as a nation depends on our ability to take full advantage rapid technological change. This means that we urgently need to develop our capabilities in the areas of science, technology and innovation. We will soon establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, to ensure that our country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technology. The drive towards the digital industrial revolution will be underpinned by the availability of efficient networks. We will finalise our engagements with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the allocation of spectrum reduces barriers to entry, promotes competition and reduces the cost to consumers.
The reference to “we will finalise our engagements with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the allocation of spectrum reduces barriers to entry, promotes competition and reduces the cost to consumers” does not give any hint of divergence from the current position. Nor does the announcement or the formation of the Digital Industrial Revolution Commission require or hint at the suspension of or changes to the current process or the Amendment.
Our view is that there will be changes to the White Paper (implying changes to the Amendment Bill) arising out of the CSIR process to investigate the spectrum requirements of the WOAN as well as pressure from Treasury to relieve, partially, short-term cashflow issues through a spectrum auction. Changes to the White Paper have to be taken to and adopted by Cabinet and once that is done adjustments will be made to the Bill. The formation of the proposed Commission has been on the ANC policy radar for a while.
The shape of the commission and its mandate are set out in the ANC discussion document for its 2017 policy conference – Click here for this document
This document proposes the establishment of a 4th Industrial Revolution Commission by government to help facilitate the thinking on these fundamental changes and make recommendations to government. This Commission would have representatives of all economic sectors, labour and social partners There are indications that DTPS will be a lead department: the Minister has made reference to the 4th Industrial Revolution (“4IR”) in numerous speeches over the past two years.
The Commission will have a far broader mandate than ICTs and a far broader scope than the ECA (which deals mainly with supply-side telecommunications and broadcasting issues). This is about technology – including communications technology – and how to prepare people for the impact it will have on their lives. It is likely that the Commission will have advisory powers and make recommendations to the President or the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, the formation of which was also announced in the SONA and which seems to have an overlapping mandate. It will play a central role in the formulation of a policy around embracing the 4IR.
Ramaphosa to establish ICT commission
Two further documents have been published with a view towards finalising the latest review of the regulatory framework for call termination. The note on asymmetry proposes that licensee’s with less than a 20% share in the market for fixed or mobile call termination will continue to be entitled to charge asymmetrical termination rates. In line with the intention to move towards a single, unified termination rate across markets, this asymmetry will be available to smaller operators until 2020, while new entrants will have a four-year window before they will be required to charge symmetrical rates. No response is being solicited from industry, but enquiries relating to this note can be sent to the Chairperson: Call Termination Council Committee at CTRreview@icasa.org.za. A separate briefing note deals with technical issues around financial modelling to be utilised in determining any future rate reductions.
ICASA briefing note on asymmetry | ICASA briefing note on November 2017 submissions from operators
Cost to Communicate / ICASA Priority Markets Investigation
ICASA has entered Phase II of its inquiry into which markets it should prioritise for review and possible pro-competitive intervention under Chapter 10 of the Electronic Communications Act.
- Phase 1 – Market Study
- Phase 2 – Discussion Document
- Phase 3 – Public Hearings
- Phase 4 – Findings Document
The Discussion Document – “Invitation for written representations on priority markets in the electronic communications sector” – was published on 16 February 2018, with written comments due by 2 April 2018.
The Findings Document which is the final output will presumably list the priority markets and set out a schedule for their review.
ICASA’s preliminary view – based on the market study – is that the following markets should be prioritised for a market review:
- Wholesale fixed access, which refers to fixed access services and wholesale supply of asymmetric broadband origination.
- Upstream infrastructure markets incorporating national transmission services and metropolitan connectivity.
- Wholesale mobile services incorporating mobile radio access network services and wholesale supply of mobile network services.
More detailed analysis to follow…
Invitation for written representations on priority markets in the electronic communications sector