Vodacom SA initiates legal proceedings against ICASA

28 Feb 2014

South African telco Vodacom has joined rival MTN South Africa in the legal proceedings against telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), with a view to overturning the introduction of new mobile termination rates (MTRs) in the country from 1 April 2014, local news agency TechCentral reports. According to the article, Vodacom is reportedly demanding an interim order to set aside the date of the implementation as well as a review application challenging the legality of the process followed by ICASA. Richard Boorman, spokesperson for Vodacom, said: ‘ICASA has not followed this process and as a result our customers will be unfairly prejudiced. We would have far preferred to have settled this in direct discussion with the regulator, but given the inadequate consultation we have been left with no choice but to approach the courts.’ Further, both Vodacom and MTN reportedly consider that Cell C, in particular, does not deserve to benefit from asymmetry given that it is no longer a new operator. For its part, Cell C’s chief legal officer Graham Mackinnon said: ‘We believe that ICASA has done everything properly and that MTN and Vodacom are desperately trying to stop a process that has been thoroughly thought-out and implemented’. However, the company has appealed to the public for support over the new MTRs in YouTube and radio advertisements.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in January 2014 ICASA announced higher asymmetry in MTRs, effective 1 March 2014. The new rules favour smaller network operators Cell C and Telkom Mobile. However, in February ICASA’s representative Nomvuyiso Batyi confirmed that MTN South Africa had sent a letter to the watchdog demanding the ‘immediate removal of recently published regulations’. Subsequently, on 17 February the regulator announced that the MTR cuts would be pushed back with two months, to 1 May, as the legal proceedings introduced by MTN South Africa are ‘complex’ and parties affected by the litigation are ‘afforded very little time to respond’. The date was amended yet again, to 1 April, after ICASA decided that ‘a delay of one month is sufficient to ensure that the affected parties have sufficient time to properly prepare their answering papers.’