The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act of 2005 that could change the way mobile network operators sell you services.

The amendments add three new sections to Regulation 8 and touches on voice and SMS services, data services and consumer education and awareness.

In terms of voice and SMS services, if the amendments pass, network operators would need to notify users of their voice and SMS usage in intervals of 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% using an SMS or “other applicable means.”

The real kicker for operators is section 8A paragraph two:

“A Licensee must provide end-users who are on post-paid / hybrid tariff plans with an option to buy additional voice services or SMS services upon depletion of such services.”

Simply put, there are numerous consumers who routinely run out of airtime and they are then forced to make calls at costly out of bundle rates. Well, that practice could come to an end.

Icasa has also proposed that users on contract also be cut off from services when their plan reaches the limit. Of course given that Icasa has said that contract users should be able to add airtime to their account, users can reconnect by recharging.

Data services

As with voice and SMS services, Icasa proposes that networks also notify users when their data bundle is 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% depleted.

Users must also be able to recharge their account through USSD platforms or other means.

Once again, the key amendment in this section is that network operators cannot automatically charge users out of bundle data rates. Operators would need ask subscribers whether they would like to opt-in or opt-out of out-of-bundle data rates.

But wait, there’s more.

Icasa has also proposed new data validity rates which you can view in the table below.

Data bundle size Validity period
1MB – 50MB 10 days
50MB – 500MB 30 days
500MB – 1GB 60 days
1GB – 5GB 90 days
5GB – 10GB 180 days
10GB – 20GB 12 months
20GB > 24 months

In addition to that change operators must provide users with the option to roll over unused data when a user recharges before the expiry date. This data will follow the validity periods outlined in the table above.

Finally, Icasa has proposed that operators also undertake education campaigns that will educate users on how to use a smartphone, data and the range of products and services an operator offers.

At first glance these changes look geared toward making the user experience a lot more fair than it currently is. Whether the local network operators will welcome or reject these proposed amendments remains to be seen but we must commend Icasa for at least trying to shake up a sector that is in desperate need of change.

Those interested in submitting comments for these proposed amendments have until 7th September to do so via post, hand delivery or email.

Postal address for comments

Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
FOR ATTENTION: Mr Gumani Malebusha
Private Bag X10002

Hand delivery of comments

Block D, PinMill Farm
164 Katherine Street

Emailed comments

[email protected]

[Source – Tech Central] [Image – CC BY 2.0]