[9 May 2024] ICASA has published details of the process under which public benefit organisations (PBOs) – including government departments – can apply for assessment as to whether their mobile content must be zero-rated by the mobile network operators (MNOs).

Notice outlining the process for submitting applications for mobile content to be zero rated

The MNOs – Vodacom, MTN, rain, Telkom Mobile, Cell C and Liquid Intelligent Technoligies – are obliged to implement zero-rating of PBO mobile content as part of the conditions of the spectrum licences which they were awarded in March 2022. This must be implemented by 15 January 2027 – 36 months from 15 January 2024 (being the date on which spectrum licences were issued).

Application process

All applications must be directed to:

  • Licensing and Compliance Division, Block B, 350 Witch–Hazel Avenue, Eco Point Office Park, Eco Park, Centurion / Private Bag X10, Highveld Park, 0169 / zeroratingapplications@icasa.org.za

Applications must include the following information:

  • Applicant’s Name, email address and contact numbers
  • Proof of company registration, including proof that the entity is registered as a PBO with SARS (not applicable to government departments with .gov.za websites)
  • Motivation for the inclusion of the domain name on the zero-rating list (not exceeding 300 words) indicating its intent and proof of dedication to provide social goods and services
  • Sub type (i.e. relevant government department, for example, health or education) or sector in which the PBO operates (e.g. health, education, charity, etc)
  • Website title and URL
  • Static IPV 4 address and/or Static IPV 6 address (Cloudfare IP addresses /similar addressing resources will not be onboarded)
  • Ports, Server Name Indication (“SNI”) and location of hosting

Basic Rules

  • Any service for commercial gain will not be zero-rated.
  • Embedded content or embedded links will not be zero-rated.
  • Rich media content such as videos and streaming should be limited to a maximum of 480-pixel quality to protect network quality.
  • Content must be locally hosted within South Africa. Only South African hosted domain names will be zero-rated.
  • Licensees will receive approval notification within two (2) business days after approval of the application.
  • Post the implementation period, the zero-rating of the websites must be activated within fourteen (14) working days from the date that they were notified.
  • ICASA will annually audit listed PBOs to ensure compliance with PBO requirements.
  • Licensees may request ICASA to reconsider an approval where it can provide evidence that an entity no longer qualifies as an NPO.
  • Providers of content zero-rated under the COVID regulations must reapply under this process.

Managing abuse

  • Licensees are responsible for monitoring and detecting abuse of zero-rated websites and reporting this to ICASA. Supporting evidence of the blocked/removed domain names/individual users must be provided within two business days from detection to allow ICASA to investigate.
  • ICASA will share all reported cases within three (3) business days of receipt with all Licensees to ensure that the abuse is managed across all the networks.
  • To protect against abuse, users will be limited to 300 MB of daily data and a monthly cap of 2 GB per user.
  • Licensees may block or remove individual users/domains suspected of abusing the zero-rated websites:
    • Where any user is found to have exceeded a daily limit of 300 MB and a monthly cap of 2 GB; and
    • Where the Licensee is exposed to content:
      • Which poses a security threat; and
      • Where there is exploitative tunnelling or there are reasonable grounds to believe that illegitimate and/or abusive use of zero-rated websites is or could be taking place.
  • Suspension may be maintained until the security threat has been rectified and/or remedial action has been implemented.
  • Licensees may suspend the zero-rating of all content and charge normal data tariffs for this content in accordance with the subscribers’ tariff plan after suspending the abused zero-rated website.