544 I-ECNS licences granted

23 Jan 2009

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has granted 544 individual Electronic Communications Network Services (I-ECNS) licences which allow telecoms companies to operate their own networks. 288 of the licences have been issued immediately, while the remaining 256 have been granted but not yet issued as the applicants had not submitted all the relevant documentation. They now have 90 days to get the required information to the authority. Effectively, Value Added Network Service (VANS) providers that have now converted their licences to I-ECNS can develop and operate their own networks. These include Altech which played a central role in the awarding of the new licences by being at the forefront of regulatory challenges calling for the conversions. It is unlikely more than a small percentage of those issued with the new licences will go on to launch their own networks, but they are still likely to have a significant effect on the market. Once the Seacom undersea cable becomes operational, and the new national network that MTN and Neotel are constructing is installed, within the next twelve months some new operators should come to the fore, others are likely to fold, and a spate of mergers and acquisitions is likely.