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CAPE TOWN Feb 20 South Africa's telecoms
regulator on Thursday brought forward the start date for planned
mobile rates cuts by a month, saying it didn't need two months
to prepare for a legal challenge from operator MTN Group
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
(ICASA) in January announced plans to halve the rates mobile
operators can charge each other to use their networks, a move
expected to hit revenues at dominant players MTN and Vodacom
The regulator says the rate cuts are necessary to spur
competition. MTN and Vodacom have objected to the process
followed by the regulator and have said the reduced rates would
benefit their smaller rivals such as Telkom SA and Cell
C, who have not invested as much in their networks.
The cuts were initially due to be introduced on March 1, but
the regulator then moved that to May 1 after MTN launched a
legal challenge this month.
But ICASA now says it does not need as much time as it
originally expected to prepare for the legal fight, and has
moved the start date to April 1, representing an overall delay
of a month.
"After further consideration and consultation with legal
counsel, ICASA's Council has decided that the commencement of
the 2014 Regulations need only be delayed by one month,"
spokesman Paseka Maleka said in a statement.
"It is in the public interest that MTN's application for
interim relief be resolved as expeditiously as possible," Maleka
MTN Group is asking Johannesburg's South Gauteng High Court
to review ICASA's decision to halve the rate to 20 South African
cents per minute per call.
The rate would then fall to 10 cents by March 2016.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by David Dolan)