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MTN to defend views on data prices if referred to competition tribunal - CEO

Earlier this month, Competition commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said Vodacom and MTN could face prosecution if they do not agree to cut pre-paid data prices in the next two months.

MTN Africa. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - MTN Group will defend its views on recommendations of the Competition Commission before a Competition Tribunal if the competition watchdog refers the case, Rob Shuter, chief executive of the South African telecoms group, said on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Competition commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said Vodacom and MTN could face prosecution if they do not agree to cut pre-paid data prices in the next two months.

This followed the findings of a data services inquiry launched in August 2017 which showed prices charged by the operators were higher in South Africa than in other African markets in which they were operating.

The same was true when comparing local data costs with those outside Africa, Bonakele said.

Vodacom and MTN say the comparisons are uninformative because cost and quality differences across countries, including spectrum allocations, may account for variations in pricing.

On pre-paid data pricing, MTN agrees that there is work to be done, Shuter said in a transcribed investor call on the findings of the commission.

“But we have consistently signalled that we are busy with that and we have made a lot of progress and that it is dependent on allocation of spectrum to carry traffic cost effectively,” he said.

MTN does not support “heavy-handed” regulatory intervention on free data and zero rating of data, wholesale market and infrastructure sharing, he said.

“In the event that we do have a fundamental difference of opinion, the legal route available to us would be to defend the position in front of the Competition Tribunal if it is referred by the Competition Commission,” Shuter added.

The group has met with the commission, the regulator and with a number of the key ministries where it put forward its position and arguments.

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