The government has been quick to blame SA’s mobile operators for the country’s abnormally high data costs but has largely overlooked its own role in keeping prices elevated. Data prices have long been a bugbear of consumers. Studies have shown that cheap and easy access to the internet promotes innovation and economic growth. In April, the Competition Commission found that SA’s data prices are high relative to other African countries, particularly when it comes to mobile prepaid data. More notably, it found that MTN and Vodacom charge more in SA than they do in other countries. That appears to be true, as is the commission’s finding that the pricing structures of mobile data tend to be anti-poor in that low-income earners usually pay more per megabyte — a feature of the market that must be addressed. Rightly so, the commission acknowledged that the lack of spectrum, or radio waves, at mobile operators’ disposal has kept costs higher than they ought to be. The dearth of spectrum...

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