South Africa’s regulatory regime must regulate to solve future problems to create healthier competition and an environment more conducive to investment, said Sipho Maseko, Telkom CEO.
Maseko was speaking at the 18th annual South African Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC), in Hermanus, Cape Town, themed the “The Data Tsunami – Enabled through Software Defined Transformation”.
When asked to comment on the the draft on the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill to be submitted to parliament this week, Maseko urged the regulators to identify future challenges and seek solutions instead of looking to solve past problems. He also commented on the country’s communication watchdog, ICASA, plans to cut termination rates – the price that mobile and fixed network operators charge each other for terminating calls between networks.
“The call termination regulations doesn’t recognise the market is converged. It still looking at the voice market as being fixed and mobile. And actualy it doesn’t matter now whether things are fixed or mobile,” said Maseko.
“The technology has converged, yet the specific regulation approach is still thinking in tersm of five, 10, 15 years ago. It doesn’t look forward. That’s more of a challenge.”
He added that if the regulators believe the market has converged so why “do they still have a separate regime for fixed and mobile. Because with Software Defined Networks and transformation of fixed and mobile won’t matter because software will be managing access in a very simple way than it may have than before.”
He cited an example in the 1990s where Telkom had to write off assets for about R1 bilion to R2 billion after it was required to build one million fixed lines by the regulator. Maseko said the tragedy of this was that the industry’s watchdog was regulating for the past and not the future.
He added that now the challenge is not about whether spectrum is available or not.
“It’s about what is the future problem you are trying to solve and how to make sure that the way you construct regulation regime now enables to solve those issues.”
Maseko also urged regulators to regulate the industry to enable investment and balance competion ion the country. The country’s three biggest operators (Vodacom, MTN and Telkom) are spending R20 to R30 billion annually and Maseko wants the company’s to invest more.
He asked: “How do we make sure the real money that goes into the ground every year continues to grow. What will it take for us to spend more?”