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Wait a minute – we heard it all before


President Cyril Ramaphosa issued his state of affairs (SONA) on Thursday, promises to lower the high price of cellular data.

To help with this process, Ramaphosa said the Communications Minister would issue political guidance to ICASA to launch the spectrum licensing process within the next month.

He added that the process would include measures to promote competition, transformation and universal access.

It also called on the telecommunications industry to reduce the cost of data in order to align itself with other countries in the world.

We've heard it before

If you feel déjà vu and you think you have heard this before, you will be right.

In fact, Ramaphosa and his predecessor have hit the "lowest data rates" and the spectrum drum for the past three years.

Here is a summary of what Ramaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma said about data prices in the state of national speeches.

  • June 2019 SONA (Cyril Ramaphosa) – "Young people have constantly raised the issue of too high data costs in South Africa. Within the next month, the Minister of Communications will issue political guidance to ICASA to launch the spectrum licensing process."
  • February 2019 SONA (Cyril Ramaphosa) – "The Minister of Communications will soon issue political guidance to ICASA for the licensing of the high-frequency radio spectrum."
  • February 2018 SONA (Cyril Ramaphosa) – "We will conclude our commitments with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure that spectrum allocation will reduce barriers to entry, promote competition and reduce costs for consumers."
  • February 2017 SONA (Jacob Zuma) – "We assure youth that reducing data costs is the highest in our policies and plans."

Some hope

Incapacity, mismanagement, and instability in the Communications Department have hampered the process of providing more spectrum to mobile operators.

Over the last 11 years, South Africa has 11 communications ministers, many of whom do not know the industry.

This, coupled with impotence and poor management, has overwhelmed digital migration and spectrum allocation processes.

Providing a wider range of mobile operators is the easiest way to reduce mobile phone prices, which means that the delay affects South Africans and the economy.

There is, however, more hope than ever before this time. Ramaphosa has a telecommunication experience and there is now a lot of political will to do that.

The only question is whether the Communications Department and ICASA have the necessary skills and abilities to do what it takes to deliver the spectrum to mobile operators.

Read Now: Mobile Data Prices – Here's what prevents price falls

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