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Danique Rhode
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Johannesburg High Court rules for lower call rates

03 April 2014, 12:16

Who loves the internet?! WE DO!! Who wants cheaper cellphone-data charges?! WE DO!! WE DO!!!

By "WE" I mean the large majority of South Africans who access the internet through their cell/smart-phones, of course.

Just take a look at the Blackberry phenomenon as it happened in our country: Blackberry was barely a competitor in the South African smartphone market before it introduced its R60 BIS package, which massively reduced the price many had to pay to get and remain online. The crowd went wild.

The rest of us smart-phone users, however, were left crest-fallen after finding that only Blackberry clients would be offered such fantastic deals. We knew that the infamous 'BB' was an inferior device, and having invested in machines running proven software (Apple, Android, Microsoft), we were at a loss at how to progress. Does quantity really defeat quality? We were left asking ourselves questions just like these, and everyone was saying "YES"!! It was no comfort to us that VodaCom, probably the most reputable and reliable mobile service in SA, were and are still offering data bundles in the ridiculous price range of R279 per gigabyte (Already, quite a bit more expensive then the current Cell C rate of R149 per GB. In contrast, it costs around R30 per GB on ADSL, and just over R300 for a decent uncapped line) - it was no longer a question of intelligence. Those of us who stuck to the higher quality smart-devices were caught in a shameful conflict, and we felt kind of stupid, though most would rather not admit it.

Well, weep no more! The Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) have brought this topic into the political arena, and on Monday the High Court in Johannesburg instructed the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to, within the next six months, reconsider its proposed new call termination rates, asserting that they were "invalid and unlawful."***

When you consider the statistics you'll notice that, since 2008, internet use in SA has grown from 15% to over 34%. It is unsurprising that this was achieved during Blackberries rise and fall from the limelight, what, with 3/4's of internet users using their cellphones to connect online (anybody say BIS?). It also becomes clear that cellular companies are pulling the wool over South African citizens eyes. Competition is virtually non-existent in this market, making maintaining the rarity of their services and the high prices associated with these is easy with the right employees.

If anything, we can see that South Africans are still willing to pay the ridiculous prices to stay connected to their social, financial and academic worlds, even though most live on less then R1 500 a month, highlighting the increasing necessity for connectivity in SA.

The icing on the cake: 
Since Monday, both MTN and VodaCom have taken ICASA to court in the hopes of protecting their interests.

Needless to say, the majority of South Africans will do little to help their case.

***I have assumed that this development is only the first step towards generally cheaper communication in South Africa.

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