After a week of battling in the high court, it seems that no one party will be entirely happy with Judge Haseena Mayat’s ruling on the issue of mobile termination rates (MTRs). In ruling that ICASA’s proposed MTRs for 2014 were in fact “invalid and unlawful” Judge Mayat also said that she was using her discretion and acting in the public’s best interest by allowing the reduction in termination rates to go ahead on April 1st, albeit for only six months.
The new rates will only be in effect for the next six months while ICASA conducts a more thorough review to determine MTRs going forward. This was decided after today’s high court ruling determined that the rates for 2014 were not fairly calculated. This coming after ICASA started off the week by volunteering to scrap and review the proposed rates for 2015/2016 which would have seen rates reduced to just 10c/minute.
MTRs are the costs that networks pay each other when their users call someone on another network. Until now, MTRs have been sitting at 40 cents per minute for everyone. However as of tomorrow, the rate will be reduced to 20c/minute for calls placed by Cell C and Telkom Mobile customers to Vodacom’s and MTN’s networks, while MTN and Vodacom will still be charged 40c for calls placed by their customers to Cell C and Telkom Mobile.
The reason for the challenge in the high court was the perception by MTN and Vodacom, the two largest networks in South Africa which ICASA stated own 80% of the mobile market, that this level of asymmetry in the rates would unfairly disadvantage their customers who, they say, would end up carrying the costs.
The issue of MTRs and the court case have, so far, sparked a public war of words between Cell C and MTN with Alan Knott-Craig, the once CEO of Vodacom now heading up Cell C, calling this case a “make or break (moment) for affordable mobile communications in South Africa”. With so much money on the line for all concerned, we’re sure that this will not be the last that we hear of the saga.