WAPA responds to iBurst’s outburst

WAPA Press Release 19th February 2007

WAPA responds to iBurst’s outburst
The Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) notes with concern the recent public statements made by iBurst with regard to what it terms “rogue wireless operators”. It is most unfortunate that a service provider of the nature of iBurst should choose to place inaccurate and misleading information in the public domain in seeking to further its own competitive agenda. WAPA represents over 25 Wireless ISP’s that are providing services that compete with those offered by iBurst. A recent informal census indicates that the collective customer base of WAPA’s members exceeds the combined subscriber base of iBurst and Sentech (MyWireless) in terms of both numbers of customers and growth rate. WAPA understands that the highly emotive nature of iBurst’s comments stem from insecurities around the competitiveness of its services and customer service as also the recent loss of the Lotto connectivity contract. Nevertheless the highly emotive nature of its outburst is regrettable and amounts to nothing more than an attempt to hijack a customer base.

Invitation to join WAPA
It is important to note that operators like Iburst, Telkom and Vodacom share the “PUBLIC” unlicensed spectrum that they use for its backhaul in many areas with other wireless providers. WAPA invites iBurst to join the industry representative body, to ensure that operators who are illegally using spectrum can easily be dealt with, and the interests of all users of licenced and unlicenced spectrum, including consumers can be protected.

WAPA has engaged ICASA on the issue of co-operation to ensure enforcement of ICASA regulations on the use of unlicenced spectrum. WAPA is convinced and has demonstrated that proper use of “PUBLIC” or unlicenced spectrum is sustainable, when used responsibly and when well regulated. This model is being used across the developing world to promote universal access of telecommunications services and has received numerous endorsements from the United Nations and its development agencies.

No choice but to respond
But while WAPA is willing to engage in good faith with iBurst on these issues, certain of the statements made cannot be left unchallenged. A failure to address any issue raised should not be seen as reluctance to do so. According to iBurst these “rogue wireless Internet Service Providers (ISPs) providing Internet access to consumers in contravention of the Telecommunications Act put extreme pressure on South Africa’s scarce radio spectrum.” There is no basis whatsoever in fact for this statement. WAPA further wishes to point out the repeal of the Telecommunications Act on 19 July 2006.

Where is the logic?
The following statements are attributed to the CEO of iBurst:
“Ultimately, people must decide whether they want to be customers of the Enrons and Masterbonds of the Internet industry”.
“We hope that consumers will not be seduced by unrealistic promises and remember that doing business with potential criminals will harm South Africa’s war on crime.”
An additional concern is that these operators are apparently selling inferior services which iBurst call “unreliable, saturated and high latency ADSL lines.” It is more than obvious that these are nothing more than highly-charged and unverified statements and assertions of guilt-by-association. On iBurst’s logic it would seem that iBurst is losing market share to competitors who are supposedly offering “inferior services.” A brief visit to the iBurst section of the www.mybroadband.co.za forum strongly suggests that iBurst has enough of its own service inadequacies without pointing fingers at others.

ICASA not funded out of licence revenue
WAPA would also like to correct the erroneous impression created by iBurst that ICASA is funded out of licence revenue. This is simply not true. ICASA is funded out of the National Revenue Fund and funding bears no correlation to licensing revenue.

Quality of service and consumer assurance
WAPA would like to assure consumers that purchase services from WAPA members that significant progress has been made in weeding out those operators intent on short-term gain at the expense of the consumer. It seems more than apparent that such operators are to be found at all levels of service provision in South Africa. Despite assertions to the contrary, full WAPA members are licensed operators and WAPA is finalising amendments to its Code of Conduct so that it can apply to the Minister of Communications for recognition as an Industry Representative Body (IRB) under the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT Act). WAPA members are bound to ethical consumer practices through their membership of the Association. Consumers are welcome to contact WAPA or to visit its website (www.wapa.org.za ) in order to obtain information about member services and WAPA initiatives. WAPA encourages co-operation and co-ordination within the Wireless Access Provider industry, and strongly discourages anti-competitive behaviour as seems to be being demonstrated by iBurst in this article.