Icasa Regulations not relevant to Fixed Wireless Access Market
It’s the third time lucky, perhaps, for ICASA, as it makes another attempt to publish a workable set of quality of service standards, as required by section 69 of the Electronic Communications Act 2006.
These regulations, setting out the minimum standards for end-user and subscriber service charters, came into force on the 8th of September, 2009. The regulations have twice previously been published and after an Inquiry into whether the existing regulations should be amended, repealed and rewritten, the outcome was published together with the new set of regulations:
The problem with the regulations are that most of its obligations, sourced specifically from old Mobile Network Operator (MNO) licences issued under the Telecoms Act, have very little relevance at times to anything else, and are now intended to cover the entire industry from fixed DSL to hotspots to VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) to FWA (Fixed Wireless Access), etc.
This one-size-fits-all approach is not a good idea, as it leaves a lot of room for future disputes, which in turn is not good for consumer protection (assuming that consumer protection is the intention of the regulation).
Furthermore, in many ways, Fixed Wireless Access is not like GSM / MNO. The Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) is concerned that the subscriber service charter was designed for MNO, but now seems to be forced on WAPA members who don’t use the same technologies.
It may be that differentiating between broad categories of service is problematic for ICASA, or that it is in fact not very concerned with the FWA market, and in not understanding our industry as well as we do, the question is raised whether the FWA market should self-regulate with the support of ICASA. We know what our technologies are realistically capable of.
WAPA as a collective represents the second biggest fixed connectivity provider in SA. WAPA membership, currently comprising of over 60 service providers and providing services to an estimated 50 000 consumers, is focused on using open standard wireless technologies.
WAPA member technology is the logical choice for under-serviced areas and has a proven track record in these areas. WAPA also works with registered equipment suppliers to promote the enforcement of type approval regulations by such suppliers as well as its members. Their Code of Conduct focuses on wireless activities, an enforcement process, certification and training and WAPA members also have a forum for sharing knowledge and resolving technical problems.
With the support of ICASA, self-regulation is the best way forward for the FWA market, with WAPA being ideally positioned to be an interface between the government regulator (ICASA), network operators, service providers and consumers.