Data prices in South Africa are too high, confirmed Competition Commission

In response to the public concerns over the high data prices in South Africa, the Competition Commission was tasked in August 2017 to conduct data services market inquiry to understand the reasons behind the high prices for data services and to make recommendations that would result in lower prices for data services. On 2 December, the Commission announced the results of the inquiry confirming with evidence that the data prices are high in South Africa compared to other countries. The final report pinpointed four broad areas of concern: a) the existence of anti-poor retail pricing structures, which lack transparency; b) inadequate price-based competition in mobile markets; c) limitations in the availability of spectrum and access to facilities, which drive costs up; and d) the supply gap for fixed-line data services. In this vein, it provided some recommendations: 1) immediate relief on data pricing focusing on the level and structure of pricing, 2) enhance price-based competition including legislative changes to facilitate cost-based access to facilities, and 3) develop alternative infrastructure to provide data services in lower-income areas and smaller secondary cities. ‘This is a comprehensive package of recommendations necessary to address high data costs in the country. High data costs do hamper the growth and development of the economy and will derail the country’s potential in the fourth industrial revolution. For these recommendations to be effective and achieve the desired results, we urge decisiveness by all concerned in implementation,’ noted Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.