By Sihle Mavuso for IOL
In the wake of the Competition Commission ordering Vodacom and MTN to lower their exorbitant data prices, the ruling party says the two must voluntarily do so now than later.
MTN and Vodacom lost R22-billion of their combined value on Monday after the competition watchdog gave the two dominant mobile phone operators two months to slash internet connectivity prices or face prosecution.
The ANC, in response to the two mobile giants’ reasoning that data was so expensive because of the lack of spectrum, said that would be sorted in the near future and that should not be an excuse.
Joining the chorus of those welcoming the news that on the side battered the values of the companies, the ruling party said the current steep prices of data have a negative impact not only on the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
“We reiterate our call that operators must demonstrate goodwill by voluntarily lowering data prices and allow government to resolve the allocation of new spectrum. The release of spectrum, which the ANC supports, will resolve the network capacity constraints experienced by Mobile Network Operators and accelerate the roll-out of broadband networks in rural areas,” the party said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
On the high data costs, the party said the working class poor, youth, students and women are robbed of their income as they spend more than 25% on the telecommunications services including data services.
It said the majority of the country’s people, due to the widening digital divide, are unable to enjoy the benefits of a digital economy, which deprive the poor of full participation in the democracy of our country. It added that this further stifles development and growth of small businesses.
“The ANC further urges government to activate all regulatory mechanisms, i.e. Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to ensure the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Competition Commission, with the necessary speed. Access to data in the 21st century is important because it facilitates the realisation of many rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, as well as, enhancing economic participation and the strengthening of our democracy.”
Among its findings, the Competition Commission said while conducting its inquiry it started in 2017, it found that current comparisons of the prices charged by Vodacom and MTN in other African markets in which they operate also reveal that South African prices are higher than most countries by some distance.
A recent article by MyBroadband explored how the popularity of VoIP services like WhatsApp has impacted voice income for South African major mobile networks: Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C.
- Vodacom has experienced a “slight decrease in the consumption of traditional voice minutes”, but said the advantages of traditional GSM calls still make it a good option for consumers.
- MTN told MyBroadband that it has “experienced a decrease in traditional calls and an increase in VoIP usage to match”.
- Cell C admitted they had noticed a decrease in the amount of traditional call minutes being used, but said that it had stabilised.
- Telkom told MyBroadband that it had “not seen a decrease in the average minutes of use per user for both on and off-network calling”.
However, according to We are Social, “WhatsApp is the biggest messaging app … in South Africa. We have 38-million unique mobile users, which grew by two million between 2017 and 2018. ”
The high costs of data in South Africa prevent many users from using WhatsApp’s full capabilities.
By Kgomotso Modise for EWN
The network has been slapped with a R5-million fine for failing to notify authorities in time before hiking the price of its 1GB monthly WhatsApp bundle.
MTN says it believes its penalty from Icasa in the 1GB monthly WhatsApp bundle case should be proportional to its transgression.
The network has been slapped with a R5 million fine for failing to notify authorities in time before hiking the price of its 1 gigabyte monthly WhatsApp bundle. At least R2 million of the fine is suspended for 3 years.
In a statement, MTN spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan details multiple instances where the network notified Icasa of its intentions to increase the price of its 1GB monthly WhatsApp bundle.
She said they also wrote to Icasa shortly before the price hike but there was no response and it went ahead with the adjustment.
MTN said it respected the role of the authority and insisted that, at the time, the company believed that increasing the price of the bundle was the only way to ensure the continued functionality of MTN SA’s 3G network.
The network said it was very aware of the required Icasa timing, which was why it applied for leniency.
MTN will be taking the decision on review to the High Court.
MTN lost almost two-million subscribers in South Africa in the six months to June and service revenue growth slowed by 3.3 percent in a stubbornly weak economy.
MTN, Africa’s telecoms giant, said it had 1.9 million less local subscribers compared to December, bringing the total subscribers to 29.2 million in the period under review, as price-sensitive consumers opted for cheaper data offerings.
It has 1.1 million fewer active data subscribers, although postpaid customers increased marginally by 0.1 percent to 5.6 million.
MTN chief executive Rob Shuter said that the 1GB promotion had contributed to the decline.
“We had our famous 1GB promotion, which we decided was not generating value and we pulled it out of the market. A lot of those SIMs have since become dormant and contributed to the drop in prepaid users,” he said.
Shuter said delayed payments under the network roaming agreement with Cell C resulted in a R393-million impairment.
“We are evaluating a sustainable solution to the agreement with Cell C,” Shuter said.
The domestic prepaid service revenue declined 5.5 percent on the introduction of out of data bundle rates and regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
Commenting on the recent release of the policy on high-demand spectrum and policy direction on the licensing of a Wireless Open Access Network, Shuter said it was a move in the right direction, and lacked detail.
“We are still not clear how much spectrum will be available to mobile operators,” said Shuter.
Overall the MTN group had strong subscriber growth of 7.7 million in the first six months of the year to reach a total of 240 million subscribers.
Source: Telecom Paper
MTN South Africa employees have expressed fears the company’s move to sell off its stores will result in them losing their jobs, a report form ITWeb has revealed.
Already, an employee representative, who opted to remain anonymous, contacted ITWeb alleging the mobile operator was looking to sell off its stores and in the process “dupe them into joblessness without proper consultations” with the workers at these facilities.
MTN denied the retrenchment accusation but confirmed there are plans to sell stores. Employees will be transferred to new employers at their current total cost to company packages, for a minimum period of twelve months.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN said the company’s objective with this project is not to close stores, but to grow the company’s store footprint and BBBEE ownership of MTN stores.
The plan will see MTN increasing its number of stores in the coming two years, creating businesses for new owners and job opportunities for new store employees.
Source: Business Insider SA
Following the example of Absa, MTN launched a WhatsApp service on Tuesday. You can now buy MTN data via WhatsApp.
The announcement came during a turbulent day for the company, which at one stage saw its share price down 7%.
In a dramatic day for MTN for other reasons, the company launched a new WhatsApp service on Tuesday to allow customers to interact with it via the popular text-messaging platform.
MTN’s share price suffered a sharp drop in the morning, after the Nigerian government urged a Lagos court to proceed with a penalty of $2 billion (R29 billion) against MTN. The government first instituted the penalty last year, accusing MTN of evading taxes. MTN’s share price has lost almost a fifth of its value in response.
The Whatsapp-based MTN Chat service will eventually also allow customers to speak to customer support and upgrade their packages. Customers will also get low-balance alerts via WhatsApp.
MTN follows Absa, which recently introduced WhatsApp-based “chat banking”.
Though MTN reportedly claimed a “world first” in allowing customers to buy airtime via WhatsApp, Absa customers can already do just that via its service.
WhatsApp remains by far the most popular messenger app in South Africa; according to a recent study, 49% of adult South Africans use WhatsApp – compared to Facebook Messenger’s 32%.
As with the Absa service, MTN Chat has been enabled by South African-born company Clickatell, which was founded in Cape Town in 2000 to help businesses communicate via SMS.
It has since partnered with WhatsApp, and now has a head office in Silicon Valley, with 15 000 clients around the world, including Visa, IBM and McKinsey. Clickatell may even consider listing in the US this year.
The Sunday Times reported that MTN South Africa and Telkom have held discussions regarding a possible merger.
A merger between the companies makes sense operationally, as it will create a telecoms powerhouse in South Africa with tremendous scale.
It will combine MTN’s strength in the mobile market and Telkom’s dominance in the fixed-line and fibre arena.
This scale will provide the companies with a competitive advantage in South Africa in both the fixed and mobile markets.
This, however, is the reason why such a merger will not be approved by the Competition Commission – unless strong political forces drive it.
MTN–Telkom plan not new
The plan to merge MTN SA and Telkom is not new. In 2015, MTN considered an acquisition of a majority stake in Telkom to challenge Vodacom’s dominance in South Africa.
At the time MTN reportedly held exploratory discussions about a possible offer for Telkom.
These discussions followed a planned network-sharing agreement between Telkom and MTN SA in 2014.
The plan was for MTN to take over financial and operational responsibility for the rollout and operation of Telkom’s radio access network.
MTN said at the time it does not expect the deal to require regulatory approval, but it expects resistance from industry participants.
MTN was wrong. In 2015, the Competition Commission recommended that the Competition Tribunal not approve a bilateral roaming agreement between MTN and Telkom.
The Commission said the transaction would impact the structure of the mobile market in South Africa, and would “prevent or lessen” competition.
Bigger deal will be more difficult
If the Competition Commission would not approve bilateral roaming and outsourcing of the operation of Telkom’s radio access network to MTN SA, a bigger deal will nearly certainly be rejected.
However, if there is enough political will to make such a deal happen, approval may be easier to get.
The South African government is a controlling stakeholder in Telkom, and President Cyril Ramaphosa was MTN’s chairman for over a decade – from 2002 to 2013.
If such a move can help the two companies to become more profitable and avoid further job cuts at Telkom, it may receive a favourable reception among political decision makers.
MTN comments on discussions
MTN South Africa’s executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan told MyBroadband that they remain in talks with Telkom regarding its roaming agreement.
“Reports regarding further discussions between the two operators are conjecture and MTN chooses not to comment on market speculation,” she said.
Telkom was asked for feedback regarding the discussions, but the company did not respond to questions.
By Loni Prinsloo, Bloomberg/Fin24
MTN will replace its cross-town rival Vodacom in a network-sharing deal with Cell C, South Africa’s third-largest mobile phone operator.
Cell C, which has roamed on Johannesburg-based Vodacom’s network since 2001, will switch to MTN from next month, Cell C chief executive officer Jose dos Santos said in an email.
The bulk of services will be transferred within two months and will allow the operator to offer 3G and 4G connectivity in areas where Cell C has decided not to build networks, he said.
For MTN, the deal will help fund “our ongoing network expansion,” MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa said in a statement.
Cell C will roam on MTN’s network in smaller cities and rural areas, where the company has additional capacity. Vodacom couldn’t immediately comment.
South Africa is MTN’s largest market after Nigeria and the company has invested almost R30bn during the past three years to expand its network and catch up with Vodacom’s coverage in the country.
The Sunday Times has reported that an MTN employee, who worked as a senior fraud analyst, sold the cellphone records of high-profile politicians and journalists to a Gupta-linked company.
According to the report, she was paid R3,750 by a private investigations company for the mobile phone records of Trevor Manuel, Tiso Blackstar editor-at-large Peter Bruce, and Financial Mail editor Rob Rose.
Manuel, Bruce, and Rose are outspoken critics of the Gupta family.
Part of these records were published on Wmcleaks.com – a fake news website – on 13 August.
Bank of Baroda CEO Manoj Kumar also featured in the Wmcleaks report, and is accused of being a sellout to white monopoly capital for trying to close Oakbay’s accounts.
“Trevor via an untraceable middle-man had carried out around 30 calls to the Chief Manager of Bank Of Baroda SA, Manoj Kumar Jha,” states Wmcleaks.
“Many calls between Trevor and Rose have been verified within the time frame of the Oakbay’s accounts closure in BOB regarding the creation of this intimidation scenario.”
The Wmcleaks report added that “Rob Rose was also in constant touch with Peter Bruce within the said time frame”.
Shortly before the Wmcleaks article, Bruce wrote a column titled The price of writing about the Guptas.
He provided details on how he was followed and photographed, accused of cheating on his wife, and attacked online.
MTN confirmed the transgression by the employee, who did not arrive for a disciplinary hearing and instead resigned from the company.
“Providing call data records of a third-party to anyone outside of MTN is a serious and major violation of MTN’s internal policies and procedures,” said MTN.
Wmcleaks published an image of the call records detailed above.
Source: My Broadband
A week after he took over as executive chairman, Phuthuma Nhleko secured a temporary reprieve in Nigeria from paying a $5,2-billion fine.