Cell C lodges court request over MTRs; plans to invest ZAR2.4bn in 2015 upgrades

26 Jan 2015

South African wireless operator Cell C has lodged an application in the High Court in Johannesburg requesting a review of telecoms regulator Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA’s) wholesale mobile termination rate (MTR) regulations, published in September 2014. The operator is seeking to obtain access to the information that led to the regulator’s decision to further reduce the MTR tariffs, including ‘all correspondence between ICASA and the network operators and other parties, ICASA’s meeting minutes, reports from ICASA’s experts, presentations and other documentation that shows what process ICASA followed and what information it relied on in making its decision’. CEO Jose dos Santos was cited as saying in a statement: ‘Once Cell C has received the full record and has studied it in detail together with its legal advisors, economists and other experts, it will decide what further steps to take in this matter.’ Previously, in early September Cell C expressed its disappointment with the regulator’s proposed termination rates and accused it of making ‘a dramatic U-turn’ by stating that ‘the massive proposed reduction in asymmetry completely eliminates any pro-competitive remedy.’

As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, on 30 September 2014 the regulator revealed its final MTRs for the period 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2017, which give smaller players ‘slightly better asymmetry’ than the one proposed in its draft regulation from earlier that month. From 1 October 2014, the asymmetric MTR rate is set at ZAR0.31 (USD0.03) per minute (the standard MTR for this period was set at ZAR0.20 per minute), before dropping to ZAR0.24 per minute (38%) in October 2015. A further reduction, to ZAR0.19, will occur in 2016. Previously, ICASA proposed to cut the asymmetric MTR rate to ZAR0.30 from 1 October 2014, ZAR0.22 per minute (March 2015), ZAR0.16 (2016) and ZAR0.10 (2017).

Meanwhile, Cell C is planning to spend ZAR2.4 billion in upgrading its mobile network as it prepares for the commercial launch of its Long Term Evolution (LTE), Business Day Live reports. Santos disclosed that the operator, which completed a Radio Access Network (RAN) upgrade project in Gauteng in December 2014, will introduce similar projects in other metro regions. The executive said: ‘We are enhancing our network quality and redefining who we are.’ TeleGeography notes that under the RAN upgrade, Cell C replaced outdated network equipment on 1,215 base stations in the Gauteng province, with plans to install an additional 158 base transceiver stations (BTS) in early 2015, in order to increase capacity and coverage in the area.