ICASA's new call termination rates (finally!)

ICASA has published revised call termination rates to take effect on 1 October 2014. As of 2017 the cost of connecting a call to a number on the network of a large operator (MTN or Vodacom) will R0,08 which is a far cry from the near criminal R1,25 which pertained for more than a decade after the introduction of mobile telephony in 1994. Two aspects of the proposed rates struck me as interesting.

  1. From 1 March 2015 there will no longer be any difference between the mobile and fixed-line termination rates, except for the “asymmetric” rate for small operators. The means that there is no reason to delay the introduction of full mobile-fixed number portability. If it gets that far, businesses and consumers will be able to take geographic numbers starting with 012/011/021 and so on to a mobile operator for cellular service. In my view, cellular operators should be allowed to provide service on geographic numbers (as Neotel is doing already) without delay.
  2. Many people still have a Telkom line because of the fixed monopoly operator's unlimited calling plans to geographic numbers. When mobile and fixed-line termination rates are equal, how will consumers react when we see more and cheaper mobile packages with unlimited minutes? Can one expect a further erosion of the Telkom subscriber base and would this be a favourable outcome for a Telkom that might be interested in dumping its consumer copper network?

The “asymmetric” rate is also a strange beast. Telkom Mobile will be able to charge more for terminating calls from other networks because it is a smaller mobile operator and the mobile and fixed-line network markets are considered separately for this purpose, which is really just silly. ICASA could have solved the so-called problem of asymmetry by setting the termination rate to zero but at least a positive rate creates an incentive for the operators to report reasonably correct data...

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