Mobile operators, committee to meet on high rates

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cape Town - Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communication will meet cellphone operators today and tomorrow to discuss the proposal to slash interconnection fees by more than half.

The committee has raised concerns that South Africans are being charged exorbitant cellphone rates and proposed that mobile phone companies cut their interconnection fees to 60 cents a minute by the end of the year.

South Africans are currently paying R1.25 per minute during peak times for their interconnection fee, a charge to enable calls to be transmitted from each other's networks.
The committee further wants operators to reduce their rates by 15 cents a year over the next three years.
The committee decided to conduct the public hearings after it received a briefing last month from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Competition Commission and the Department of Communications on interconnection rates, which it considered to be excessive and exorbitant, the portfolio committee said in a statement.

At the time, the committee called on the ICASA to use its authority to set a concrete time-table for cutting cellphone rates.

The Department of Communications has confirmed that it also wants to see interconnection rates drop.

The department's spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso told BuaNews that government wants cellphone users to enjoy the first cost cuts by the end of November.

"We want these reductions to come into effect by Christmas. Consumers are being hard hit [by high prices]" said Rikhotso

He said there was no dispute that costs were too high, the question was now how much costs should be slashed by.

South Africa's cellphone rates are among the highest in the world.