WAPA disappointed with ICASA and looks to courts for clarity

WAPA has expressed disappointment at the release of ICASA’s draft licence conversion matrix. According to this document ICASA has not mapped a single one of WAPA’s 38 members as Electronic Communications Network Services (ECNS) licencees. ECNS licences are required to own and operate a wireless network to provide broadband services.

What this means is that if ICASA proceeds using the proposed licence conversion matrix, it is in effect forcing all WISPs and most other VANS licencees that operate their own networks across South Africa to continue operating without the correct licencing from the regulator.

WAPA members have over 50 000 subscribers using wireless networks to access broadband Internet, voice and other data services. Customers include libraries, schools, municipalities, police stations and the general public, many of which or whom are in under-serviced areas.

ICASA’s document highlights huge inconsistencies in how licences are to be converted and it appears that decisions have not been based on any transparent processes.

WAPA is frustrated that many weeks of seemingly constructive interaction with ICASA at workshops and hearings on the conversion process, seem to have been ignored by ICASA. WAPA has reserved its legal rights in this regard, and although it will not oppose the process at this stage in the courts, it may opt for this route if ICASA does not significantly change its position on licence conversion for VANs. WAPA is of the opinion that all WISPs who are VANS should at least be issued both an ECS and ECNS licence.

WAPA also feels it has necessary to settle, once and for all, the issue of self provision for VANS. WAPA members who are WISP’s are VANS licenced and have been permitted to self provide their own Networks (build their own networks) since at least February 2005. This has been hotly contested in the press by certain elements in ICASA, and this uncertainty has been detrimental to the VANS industry.

WAPA will accordingly be seeking a ruling by the High Court on self provision by VANS and is currently instructing counsel in this regard.

WAPA is an industry representative body tasked with self-regulation for the Wireless Industry and has made significant inroads in building a well-regulated industry that is compliant with ICASA’s regulations.

WAPA believes the intent of the ECA is very clearly to foster true competition in the telecommunications sector. Unfortunately WAPA now feels that these objectives may have to be realized in our courts of law and not in the public participation processes of ICASA.

David Jarvis
Chairperson, WAPA