Telecom firms should share networks, not go it alone

Business

Telecom firms should share networks, not go it alone

This has numerous benefits of price, innovation and improved service offerings

Premeshin Naidoo

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) and mobile operators have been strongly criticised for not doing enough to ensure affordable data access. Network coverage, quality and costs are barriers to access for especially poor South Africans living outside the main urban areas.

A more important consideration is that the voice and data affordability issue strangles entrepreneurial innovation and may be further hampering economic growth in SA, which is already struggling to overcome myriad other economic and social challenges. 

The affordability issue is certainly evident, with 80% of one operator’s data sales being for hourly, daily or weekly bundles instead of longer-term packages that can ensure seamless connectivity. While there is much debate over the causes of high voice and data prices, the debate focuses on poor competitive forces, perceived regulator ineffectiveness, insufficient spectrum allocation and pricing power in the hands of the operators, and not much has been said about capital investment efficiency in telecom network investment, or the lack thereof...

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