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Competition Commission ‘hopeful’ of agreements with MTN, Telkom on data costs

Their rival Vodacom reached an agreement with the regulator to cut data prices by 30% from 1 April.

Competition Commission commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele. Picture: @CompComSA/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - The Competition Commission on Tuesday said it was hopeful that a deal would be reached soon with MTN and Telkom on reducing data prices. Their rival Vodacom reached an agreement with the regulator to cut data prices by 30% from 1 April.

There were calls for many years for more affordable data.

Commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele said he expected similar deals with MTN and Telkom within two weeks. He warned that if they fail to do so, the Competition Commission would take them to court.

Bonakele said he wanted to avoid litigation because it was expensive, protracted and would not be to the benefit of subscribers.

“We were hoping that this week, we would be announcing all of these [agreements] but negotiations do take time. If we don’t conclude the agreements, we are going to go back to the litigation process and that does tend to take time,” Bonakele said.

The regulator said it was in the best interests of operators and South Africans to cut data prices.

WATCH: Vodacom to cut data costs by 30%

SPECTRUM ALLOCATION

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub called on government to speed up the allocation of more spectrum to service providers. Spectrum refers to the frequencies and more spectrum means better quality service and faster download speeds.

Joosub said they were not the only ones to blame for high data costs, saying government last allocated high demand spectrum 16 years ago, which hindered the lowering of data prices.

“I think it’s key that we are talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and that the spectrum can be allocated so that we can build the underlying infrastructure that’s desperately needed,” Joosub said.

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) was working on this.

“Which will, of course, reduce the effective cost of transactions for the mobile operators and which we hope can create a further impetus to lower prices even more,” Patel said.

Icasa indicated that it would start auctioning off spectrum for both 5G and 4G bands later this year.