Cell C opens up to Wasps

The operator enters into agreements with wireless application service providers over the thorny issue of bulk SMSes.

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SA's third cellular operator, Cell C, is opening up a channel that allows all wireless application service providers (Wasps) to terminate application-to-person SMSes on any network via its infrastructure.

Cell C's move comes after an overwhelming majority - 93% - of Wasps at the Wireless Application Service Providers Association (Waspa) annual general meeting voted recently to lodge a complaint against the operator at the Competition Commission.

Cell C is launching its new commercial model for Wasps from 1 April, which will be available uniformly to all Wasps and is based on volumes. Draft agreements reflecting the new model are being prepared and will be sent to the Wasps this week, it says.

The rates in the new commercial model are subject to change if an interconnection fee for A2P SMS is introduced. Cell C was testing a technical solution with Cellfind that has been completed, and this information has been provided to Waspa.

Industry players had been agitated that Cell C was allowing Cellfind, owned by JSE-listed Blue Label, to terminate application-to-person (A2P) messages across all networks, and not opening this route up to other Wasps.

Cell C's move was seen as a breach of a "gentleman's agreement" between operators, under which A2P messages sent to a subscriber on one network were terminated on that network, which negated the necessity for an interconnect regime.

Wasps were also unhappy that Cell C allegedly allowed its subscribers to have a return path to the sender, while subscribers on other networks would pay for SMSes that were never delivered.

Testing, testing

After the meeting, Cell C wrote to Waspa and indicated the agreement with Cellfind was a trial, and that it could not take the business and network risk of rolling out a technical solution more widely until the trial was completed.

The letter, a copy of which is in ITWeb's possession, says Cell C had already invited Wasps to negotiate commercial agreements to "give effect to this new commercial model". It adds that it was disappointed that none of the Wasps that voted at the meeting took into account that Cell C had been scheduling meetings around these commercial agreements.

"Cell C certainly values its business relationship with Waspa, but does not believe that Waspa should be used as a vehicle by certain Wasps to advance their own interests," says the letter, signed by chief legal officer Graham Mackinnon. The company denies it has acted in an anti-competitive manner.

After receipt of the letter, the Waspa management committee indicated to members that it will hold off on proceeding with the complaint for a few days in order to consult with its membership regarding the issue.

In a subsequent press statement, Waspa says the management committee had received a number of complaints from its members who were losing business due to a commercially valuable cross-network A2P reply path SMS facility, as well as preferential pricing for bulk SMS, being offered exclusively to one Wasp by Cell C.

"Waspa's overall goal is to prevent ongoing harm to its members, and welcomes Cell C's engagement." The body adds that Cell C should immediately provide the same service to the rest of its members.

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