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No fines for poor cell networks

Aug 25 2010 15:03 I-Net Bridge

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Johannesburg - The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) said on Wednesday that it had not yet imposed any penalties on SA mobile firms for poor network standards, more than a year after introducing regulations which included hefty fines for connectivity failures.
Icasa released the final version of its End-User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations at the end of July 2009, which then came into effect in August.

Mobile communications companies would be subjected to a R500 000 fine for poor network standards, Icasa said.

The regulations were introduced after networks came under fire for increased dropped calls.

Icasa stipulated that electronic communications services (ECS) and electronic communications network service (ECNS) licensees should ensure they achieved an average of 95% network service availability over a period of six months.

In addition, the percentage of connectivity failure rate should not exceed an average of 3% of all connections over a period of six months.

Icasa told I-Net Bridge on Wednesday: "The regulations are in force and they assist us more in terms of our complaints handling processes.

"The Icasa council met with mobile operators last year to address the issues of poor network standards and operators committed to improving their network standards," it said.

"No fines have been imposed so far in terms of these regulations," Icasa said.

Last year, the regulator said it had budgeted R6m to install the equipment and monitor network quality.

"The authority has laid down processes for monitoring quality of service and the engineering and technology division is charged with that responsibility of making sure that operators comply with the regulations," it said.

"These regulations will be reviewed after two years of coming into effect," the regulator for the South African communications sector said.

Earlier this month, South Africa's third mobile operator Cell C admitted publicly that its network was failing its customers.

CEO Lars P Reichelt apologised to the group's customers in a full-page advert in Business Day.

Regulations demanded that mobile communications firms had to maintain an average of a 90% fault clearance rate for all faults reported within three days, with the remaining 10% to be cleared within six days.

Moreover, companies should within seven days of receipt of a request notify and provide full reasons to qualifying service applicants where they were unable to provide service within the period, Icasa said.

Under the legislation, companies were also required to formally resolve all complaints from the complainants within 14 days of their receipt.

Icasa added that mobile communications companies had to prepare and submit to it six-monthly reports on complaints received and processed.

According to Icasa, a licence held to be non-compliant by the complaints and compliance committee will be liable to a fine not exceeding R500 000 for a contravention of regulation 4; R150 000 for a contravention of regulations 5 and 6; and an additional R50 000 for every repeated offence.



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