Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The government should explore new ways to bring down cost drivers associated with high data prices to enable more people to come online, according to a recent report by Research ICT Africa (RIA).

Consumers have expressed frustration over high data prices and the slow pace of getting tariffs to come down.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) is conducting a market study that may ultimately result in the regulation of data prices. It is consulting with the National Consumer Commission and the Competition Commission to find ways that will make internet data affordable.

The industry is still waiting for the final outcome regarding the radio frequency spectrum needed for the super-fast
4G network.

While the regulatory processes were underway, RIA suggested the government should make unused spectrum available to communities and entities wishing to offer low-cost telecommunications services and should fast-track
the roll-out of public wi-fi, especially in schools.

"As both these processes (Icasa and issues related to spectrum) are protracted, there will be no immediate relief for consumers," said RIA’s senior researcher and author of the report, Onkokame Mothobi.

Policy makers and regulators should be exploring ways of immediately reducing some of the cost drivers associated with broadband services in the country, he said.

The report noted that almost half of the South African population did not use the internet.

A major contributing factor to this low internet penetration could be the high cost of data products and smartphone devices. At the same time, consumers are not subscribing to the cheapest products on the market, such as the 1GB data bundle offered by Telkom at R99, Mothobi said.

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