WAPA stance on incoming cabinet and Neotel acquisition

May 28th, 2014

The Wireless Access Providers’ Association of South Africa (WAPA), with a membership nearing 200 entities, acts as a collective voice for the wireless industry and for independent wireless network operators.

WAPA congratulates the incoming communications minister, Faith Muthambi, and Siyabonga Cwele as minister of the newly-formed Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

WAPA looks forward to engaging with the incoming leadership and hopes they continue the former administration’s initiatives with all due urgency; specifically the development of a white paper to create a framework ICT policy for the next five years, and the assignment of high demand spectrum. These initiatives are critical to creating an enabling environment for fair and open competition and consumer protection, such that the telecommunications industry can achieve the objectives set out in last year’s SA Connect National Broadband Policy.

Vodacom’s announced intention last week to acquire 100% of Neotel should generate some urgency for the priorities and focus of the new administration. WAPA is concerned by the accelerating trend towards consolidation in the telecommunications industry, this latest announcement being a case in point, although the transaction remains subject to approval by the Regulator and the Competition Commission.

Should the acquisition be approved with appropriate structures in place to promote and ensure fair competition, WAPA is of the opinion that the transaction could benefit the industry by providing a high-quality operator with nationwide reach, capable of delivering retail services to consumers, and wholesale services to the industry, including WAPA members. Neotel, a WAPA member, has an excellent track record of engagement and partnership with WAPA members in collaborative projects. It is WAPA’s hope that this collaborative approach would continue in the event of Neotel being owned by Vodacom.

In order to spur competition and encourage new market entrants, as well as more innovation by existing service providers, WAPA calls on the Department of Communications and Telecommunications & Postal Services to prioritise spectrum policy and the associated regulatory framework. While we appreciate the need for spectrum policy and regulation to occur within a comprehensive framework, WAPA reiterates the urgency for speed in this process and, where possible, for policy decisions to be made in advance of a holistic approach.

To that end, WAPA will continue to engage government and other industry stakeholders via public forums such as this week’s Future Wireless Technologies Forum with the Regulator, Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, and industry, as well as a white paper on spectrum policy that will be published in the upcoming weeks.