“…broadband thrives on a mix of competition and active regulation, to ensure an open context.” This succinct summation comes from an Economist article from a couple of weeks ago entitled “Open up those highways“.

Contrast this with news yesterday that ICASA are apparently deliberately privileging incumbent telcos (Telkom, Vodacom, and MTN) by creating a two stage process in granting licenses for self-provisioning (the deployment of one’s own telecom infrastructure). Incumbent telcos are being granted electronic communications network services (ECNS) licenses while existing VANs (Value Added Networks) were only granted the right to purchase access from the incumbents. The bureaucratic-speak and legal waffling used to explain this decision are evidence that there is little sense of urgency at ICASA around the need for more competition and consumer choice in the telecom sector in South Africa.

By coincidence this is in stark contrast with with the Consultative Paper on the Implementation of a Unified Licensing Framework and New Market Structure released for comment earlier this week by the Communications Commission of Kenya. The document is a model of clarity and straightforwardness. Here are a few excerpts, a clear Open Access layer separation:

“The Commission further adopted in principle a unified licensing and regulatory model with the following as the main segments of the future market structure:

    • Network Facilities Provider (NFP) – who shall own and operate any form of communications infrastructure (based on satellite, terrestrial, mobile or fixed)
    • Applications Service Provider (ASP) – to provide all forms of services to end users using the network services of a facilities provider
    • Contents Services Provider (CSP) – to provide contents services such as broadcast (TV& Radio) material, and other information services and data processing services etc.

and

Cross-subsidization between the various license categories shall not be allowed. Firms with multiple licenses shall be required to structure their operations and submit distinct operational accounting returns to the Commission as part of their quarterly and annual compliance returns for auditing purposes.

and finally

With the exception of areas where there exist natural limitations say in spectrum availability, the number of licensee in all other areas will be determined by the market.

Reading this paper and the feedback included from the operators, you get a sense the Kenyan digerati have really got their act together.

Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data