By Staff Writer

Mobile phone operators – Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom Mobile – have until September 1 to reduce mobile data prices.

The country’s competition watchdog, the Competition Commission will investigate data costs that are among the highest in the world, inhibiting the growth of the telecommunications industry, according to a report in Business Day.

Ebrahim Patel, Economic Development Minister, has confirmed that a market inquiry into the state of competition in the data market and the inquiry’s terms of reference would be announced by 1 September 2017.

The newspaper reported that the minister said the commission would investigate the data services value chain and its interrelationship with other parts of the information and communications technology sector and the broader economy.

He has urged data suppliers not to await the inquiry’s outcome but to reduce data costs on their own accord as soon as possible.

The mobile phone industry in South Africa is controlled mainly by two dominant players, Vodacom South Africa’s biggest telco by subscribers, and followed by MTN.

Meanwhile, the country’s communications watchdog, the Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) also plans to hold an inquiry aimed at slashing mobile data prices.

The inquiry will consist of four phases: a market study, discussion document, public hearings, and findings document.

It would be completed by March 2018.

“The purpose of the market study and inquiry is to identify relevant wholesale and retail markets (which may include broadband markets) in the electronic communications sector that Icasa will prioritise for future market review in terms of section 67(4) of the Electronic Communications Act,” Paseka Maleka, ICASA spokesperson, said in a statement earlier this month.

The regulator said this forms part of several initiatives it is undertaking to address the high cost of communication in the country, including the cost of data.

The communications watchdog is currently in consultation with other regulatory bodies, such as the National Consumer Commission and the Competition Commission, to find ways in which data costs can be further reduced for the benefit of the South African consumers.

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