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When SA “data must fall” activists demand cheap or free cellphone services, they are in denial about what is arguably our country’s most spectacular post-apartheid accomplishment — our mobile telecommunications (cellphone) system. Prices, quality, number of handsets and population coverage compare with the world’s most advanced countries.

This remarkable story was achieved by the first two and biggest mobile network operators, Vodacom and MTN. They did so against government efforts to throttle them, drive costs and prices up, reduce quality and coverage and promote anti-consumer collusion. To the industry’s eternal credit, they prospered because they competed vigorously in the interests of consumers, especially the poor...

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