August 23, 2010
The Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) is calling upon the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to take urgent steps to address the high numbers of unlicensed providers of Internet and other electronic communications services in South Africa. WAPA estimates that there are more than 500 such operators in South Africa.
“It is a relatively straightforward and inexpensive process for a provider to obtain the necessary licensing which will permit it to provide services lawfully in South Africa” says Sumaiyah Makda of Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, regulatory advisors to WAPA.
Attempts to work with regional offices of ICASA have met with mixed results. “In some cases the response has been that the unlicensed provider will be given 12 months within which to apply for licences and in most others no action has been taken at all”, says Makda.
“This seems to ignore the fact that providing electronic communications services or network services without valid licences issued by ICASA is a criminal offence under the Electronic Communications Act of 2005. ICASA is also entitled to confiscate or seal equipment which is being used for illegal service provision.”
WAPA currently has 94 members, all of whom are licensed providers of wireless access services to consumers in South Africa. Members are bound by a Code of Conduct which governs their interaction with their subscribers and other providers as well as requiring them to be compliant with ICASA regulation.
WAPA wishes to urge ICASA to beef up its efforts to curtail illegal service provision and points out that unlicensed providers are competing unfairly in that they are not paying annual licence fees or contributions to the Universal Service and Access Fund as required by ICASA. Nor are such providers observing the consumer protection regulations which ICASA has put in place.
WAPA offers assistance to unlicensed providers who wish to legitimise their operations.
Further information is available here.