Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Mobile giant Vodacom has welcomed the government’s decision to withdraw a controversial proposed law aimed at regulating infrastructure sharing in the telecommunications sector.

One of the contentious proposals in the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill was the establishment of a wireless open-access network, which the government has said was aimed at driving down communications costs by facilitating the entry of more players.

The government also said the bill was meant to improve competition, regulation and infrastructure-sharing in the sector amid a spectrum crunch.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told MPs on Tuesday that given that parliament was unlikely to finalise the bill during the remainder of the current term, it would be best to withdraw it to enable further consultations.

“We need a holistic, forward-looking approach instead of ad hoc amendments to the existing legislation,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said the company is of the view that the government’s objectives for the sector — in terms of increasing the affordability and reach of broadband, and accelerating economic transformation — can be achieved within the current legislative framework.

“In particular, we are encouraged that the ministry holds the view that the private sector must play a greater role in the development of the telecommunications industry,” Joosub said.

He said key to ensuring that SA doesn't get left behind is to be at the forefront of new technologies, such as 5G, and the licensing thereof.

Vodacom noted that President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his state of the nation address that significant progress had been made in building a path towards mobile spectrum allocation, and that the  communications minister would shortly be issuing a policy direction to the Independent Communications Authority of SA for the licensing of high-demand spectrum.

“The release of this available spectrum will be instrumental in reducing the cost of carrying a megabyte of data and ultimately in accelerating the decline in effective data prices in SA. We remain hopeful that the highly anticipated spectrum auction will take place soon,” Joosub said.