South African gov’t readies telecom regulations

Icasa last week released its interpretations of the ministerial determinations around voice over IP (VoIP) and other telecommunication. The regulator has mapped out a programmed that aims to ensure compliance with these determinations before the deregulation date of Feb. 1, 2005.

The relevant regulations and guidelines amendments will be developed and gazetted for public comment by Monday, Icasa said at the time of the announcement.

In terms of the determinations, Icasa says, mobile cellular telecommunication service (MCTS) operators will be able to self-provide their own fixed lines by obtaining them from any telecommunications facility supplier of their choice. Icasa does not say, however, that currently said suppliers consist of Telkom and Telkom, given the continued absence of an operational SNO. VANs may also self-provide, from said suppliers. On the VANs subject Icasa notes that these determinations do not change current restrictions around the Industrial, Scientific and Medical usage (ISM) band.

The regulator says it is developing a ‘technology-neutral’ regulatory framework for the supply of Public Pay Telephone Services. Icasa says the current incumbents will continue to supply services, and third parties wishing to enter this market will need to obtain Public Pay Telephone Service licences, or authorization from Icasa to do so.

On the subject of voice over any protocol (VoAP) — Icasa says that, in the interests of the public, providers of VoAP services may be required to publish “comparable, adequate and up-to-date information for end-users on available services, i.e. emergency services, and quality of service (QoS) and service levels”. VANs licensees offering voice will be required to provide access to emergency services via the 112 national number. The authority will be aligning regulations around numbering to accommodate the VANs, it says, and will revise the facilities leasing guidelines and regulations, and develop and interconnection framework for all licensees.

Private telecommunications network (PTN) owners may resell spare capacity from Feb. 1, and, because of the commercial aspect that these networks will take on, Icasa says it may review licence terms and conditions.

Following today’s gazetting of the regulations/amendments (with the exception of the interconnection and facilities leasing guidelines/regulations), public comment will be accepted until Jan. 7k, 2005. Hearings will be held in the second week of January, and the final amended regulations will be forwarded to the minister on Jan. 21.

The amended VANs regulations will be fast-tracked in an effort to have VANs licensed by Feb. 1. A work program for the amendment of the interconnection and facilities leasing guidelines/regulations will be released shortly, Icasa says, with the intention of having this framework finalized by no later than Feb. 28, 2005.

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