Icasa 'too lenient' with cellphone operators

Regulators throughout Africa have come down hard on slacking cellphone providers.

Members of the Complaints Compliance Committee of Icasa are seen at the Icasa offices in Johannesburg on 12 November 2012. Picture: SAPA

CAPE TOWN - Editor of Tech Central Duncan McLeod says Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has been too lenient on cellphone operators.

McLeod told The Redi Tlhabi Show that South African cellphone operators get away with bad service.

"Our regulator Icasa has not been as harsh on our operators as perhaps some of the regulators in the continent have been on their operators."

McLeod says cellphone users experience the same challenges with their various networks.

"It goes to issues such as call quality, dropped calls and knowing people use their devices to access the internet and to check emails etc. A common complaint these days is the inability to connect to the internet using 3G.

"Often you see an 'e' or 'g' on your phone which means you are getting slower access almost dial up like internet speed. I think all of the operators have challenges and dark spot on their networks where you are unable to get faster internet access."

In July, Zambia's telecommunication regulator instituted criminal charges against three cellphone providers for failure to meet the minimum standards of quality service.

"Regulators across Africa are coming down quite hard on operators that do not meet the minimum standards. We've certainly seen the Nigeria's regulator being quite aggressive. Just last week, in Ghana, the regulator there announced that it was forcing MTN to compensate customers for an outage on the MTN Ghana network earlier this month."

Meanwhile, according to the latest statistics, Vodacom has improved in the last two years.

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman says they have been investing a lot in their product.

"One of the things about this industry that people sometimes don't know is that it's an incredibly capital intensive industry more so than mining, automobile and electricity. Globally, the industry spends something like $35 billion in the last year building up their networks. From Vodacom's point of view, we've spent roughly R7 billion over the last year. So it's a lot of hard work."

At the same time, Cell C has blamed Vodacom for its problems.

The mobile operator has accused Vodacom of deliberately dropping calls it pays Vodacom to carry.

However, Vodacom says it cannot be held accountable for Cell C's problems.