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ICASA issues order against MTN

ICASA says interconnect rates must be agreed to mutually.

ICASA says interconnect rates must be agreed to mutually.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has ordered MTN to "immediately" stop collecting 0.25US cents in interconnect fees when it terminates international calls.

This follows complaints from the Internet Service Providers' Association and other licensees about a 22 November notice in which MTN said all traffic coming onto its network that originates internationally would attract a 0.25US cents interconnect fee from last November.

MTN also informed its clients that voice calls coming into the country to its network and then onto other local networks would also attract the same charge.

ICASA notes its September termination regulations do not distinguish between traffic that comes from within SA's borders, and that which originates outside of SA. It says, in a statement issued late last night, that MTN has breached the Electronic Communications Act by "charging a different rate for termination between licensed operators in the manner that it has".

The regulator also notes interconnection agreements and interconnection amendment agreements must be submitted to it for filing, and must comply with SA's laws, otherwise the deals are invalid.

As a result, says ICASA, MTN's notice to its interconnection partners "is a unilateral amendment of the interconnection agreement". This leaves the current terms of interconnect agreements in force until there has been a mutual contract, it adds.

Last April, ICASA's mobile termination rates were thrown out by the South Gauteng High Court, which ruled, at the end of March, that proclamation was invalid, but would be in force until the end of September.

The regulator's April rates heavily favoured smaller players Cell C and Telkom Mobile. From April, mobile termination rates for Vodacom and MTN dropped to 20c – half the previous rate – while Cell C and Telkom Mobile were able to charge the two larger players more than double that (44c) to terminate calls on their network.

Towards the end of September, the regulator decreed mobile termination rates would remain at 20c until next September, after which they would drop to 16c, and then 13c in the final year to September 2017. Cell C and Telkom Mobile will now be able to charge the duopoly 31c to terminate calls on their networks, which then drops to 24c and then 19c at the end of the glide path.

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