Communications regulator Icasa’s draft amendments to regulations governing the expiry of data bundles, if implemented, could undermine product innovation that has made it more affordable for the poor to get online.
That’s the view of Vodacom, which was responding to a request by TechCentral from operators to comment on the draft amendments.
TechCentral reported on Tuesday that Icasa has published amendments to its end-user and subscriber service charter regulations in which it’s proposing that telecommunications operators be forced to roll over data, voice and SMS bundles (except those that are on promotion) for a minimum of six months. The regulations were last amended in 2018.Bundles with shorter expiry periods have been instrumental in making data more accessible to customers
But Vodacom has warned that implementing tough rollover rules as Icasa has proposed in the draft amendments could have a negative impact on customers who buy data for short periods of time at a discount.
Asked for comment on Icasa’s proposal, Vodacom said it provides its customers with product choices that “ultimately drive data prices lower as expiry periods shorten”.
“Bundles with shorter expiry periods — such as hourly, daily and weekly bundles — have been instrumental in making data more accessible to customers who have sporadic and limited disposable income,” said Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy.
“For example, Vodacom customers can opt for a 1GB bundle at R12, with a one-hour expiration, or R29 for 1GB for the day, whereas a 1GB, 30-day bundle is priced at R85,” he said. “It is important to highlight that the vast majority of bundles bought by customers — about 90% — are either hourly, daily or weekly bundles.”
Kennedy said Vodacom will need to consider the draft amendments in addition to potential changes to call termination regulations (the wholesale fees operators are allowed to charge each other to carry calls between their networks) as well to numbering regulations and the social obligations attached to recent spectrum purchases through Icasa’s auction. It will need to do this before it can “fully assess the overall impact” the Icasa amendments could have.
Vodacom’s most direct rival in South Africa, MTN, didn’t respond to a request from TechCentral to comment on the draft amendments. A Cell C spokesman said the company must still “consider the business and customer impact” of the Icasa’s proposals before responding. Telkom said that it is reviewing the proposed changes and will only be able to offer comment later. A spokesman for Rain did not respond to a request for comment.