On Tuesday, had been invited to Cape Town to take part in hearings of the Parliamentary Committee on Communications on South Africa's mobile interconnection (or, mobile termination) rates. I deviated a bit from my written submission but I hope that I impressed three things on most members of the committee:
- the situation is not new, and had been unfolding under their (and the regulator's) noses for more than ten years now;
- government, as a shareholder in most of the major telecommunications operators, cannot now accuse them of “greed”; and
- that Telkom's fixed termination rates are at least as disproportionally high as the mobile rates.
It was a nice experience and I was impressed by the obvious eagerness of most committee members to learn more about the issue, especially MPs Vadi, de Lille, Killian and Zondi. The Deputy Minister of Justice did not appear to appreciate my second point, though. The CEO of Vodacom also attended the hearing, as did executives from Neotel, Telkom, the CEO of Vox Telecom etc.
Since I was in Cape Town only for a few hours, I heard only two other submissions – that by Telkom, for which the time of three senior executives could apparently easily be free up, and a personal submission by Thabiso Mokgoro from Accenture. Telkom's entire contribution consisted of (as far as I could tell) some slides from their annual report and a plea to regulate a special interconnection rate from public phones to mobiles. Has anyone actually seen people use public phones? Mokgoro's submission recounted his personal experience of excessively high roaming rates. MTN had charged him around R25 000,00 after a visit to Botswana. I really think it would not be disturbing if these operators alerted one by SMS each time the unbilled amount went up by more than R1 000,00 (say) - even if it is only to express their gratitude for the custom.
Cellphone operators under fire over rates http://www.sowetan.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=1078069
Parlement kap selfoongroepe http://www.sake24.com/articles/default/display_article.aspx?ArticleId=6-104_2556976
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