The revolution of technology has led to data being the currency then drives this technological age. However, this data vehicle is affordable for some, while out of reach for others. 

Due to the frustration by South Africa customers regarding pricey data rates the #datamustfall campaign was born in 2016. Two years later, ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) finally made concessions concerning consumer data policies by implementing carryover data for particular data bundles. 

While this concession may have eased some of the burdens for the consumer, South Africa's data rates are still one to the highest in the world. This has led to the Competition Commission, after researching these claims, providing recommendations and deadlines for network providers to implement affordable data rates for all. 

Let’s delve into what this means for the South Africa consumer in 2020.

The report

Two years ago, amid a public outcry about high data prices and providers' apparent inability to allow customers to carry about unused data, an investigation was launched. The Data Services Market Inquiry report was released on 2nd December 2019.

The report said that current comparisons of the prices charged by Vodacom and MTN, the two big mobile providers in SA, in other African markets in which they operate revealed that SA prices are higher than most countries by some distance, even Lesotho, where Vodacom is the effective monopoly provider.

“The strategy in SA for the two dominant operators has been to maintain the high pricing levels of 30-day prepaid data bundles despite headline price reductions by challenger networks. This is in stark contrast to their behaviour in other African markets in which they operate, where there have been reductions in the 30-day prepaid data bundle prices.

“This indicates that they are more capable of price discrimination strategies in SA where they dominate,” said the report.

The Competition Commission found that poorer consumers were faced with little option but to resort to purchasing short-validity bundles in pursuit of lower prices, but this is no answer as it did not provide them with continual data access at affordable prices.

“The provisional report identified that consistent with the benchmarking, lower-income consumers who purchased smaller data bundles were faced with inexplicably higher costs per megabyte (MB) relative to consumers who purchased much larger data bundles.”

Deadlines put in place

Due to these findings, the competition provided strict deadlines for South Africa’s major network providers to implement; bringing consumers closer to the aim of the #datamustfall campaign.

Implementation of Competition Commission Data Services Market Inquiry recommendations


Vodacom and MTN must independently reach agreement with the Commission on a substantial and immediate reduction of tariff levels, especially prepaid monthly bundles, within two months.

    2 February 2020

Vodacom and MTN must independently reach agreement with the Commission within two months on a reduction in the headline prices of all sub-500MB 30-day prepaid data bundles to reflect the same cost per MB as the 500MB 30-day bundle, or cost-based differences where such cost differences have been quantified, as well as the cessation of partitioning strategies that contribute to anti-poor pricing and/or inferior service outcomes.

     2 February 2020

All mobile operators to reach agreement with the Commission within three months to offer all prepaid subscribers a lifeline package of daily free data to ensure all citizens have data access on a continual basis, regardless of income levels.

    2 March 2020

This agreement to be given formal legislative or regulatory effect within six months.

    2 June 2020

All mobile operators to reach agreement with the Commission within three months on a consistent industry-wide approach to the zero-rating of content from public benefit organisations and educational institutions to ensure broad application.

2 March 2020

ICASA to give formal regulatory status to this agreement through the ICASA End-User and Subscriber Service Charter within six months.

2 June 2020

All mobile operators to reach agreement with the Commission within three months to inform each subscriber, on a monthly basis, of the effective price for all data consumed by the customer.

2 March 2020

ICASA to give formal regulatory status to this agreement in the ICASA End-User and Subscriber Service Charter within six months.

2 June 2020

Telkom Openserve to reach agreement with the Commission on substantial reductions in the price of IP Connect to remove excessive pricing concerns within two months.

2 February 2020

Adhering to the law

The Commission made it clear that failure by relevant parties to reach agreement within the time-period prescribed will lead to prosecution, under the appropriate sections of the Act. It also noted that it was working closely with ICASA and making submissions to its processes on the high-demand spectrum and mobile broadband services. This cooperation incorporates: 

  • the licensing of the WOAN: to ensure a commercially viable consortium secures the license, to ensure it has cost-orientated access to facilities and national roaming, to provide a spectrum fee holiday, and to build in appropriate regulatory oversight which includes at a minimum non-discrimination, but potentially more if an existing operator is licensed.
  • the licensing of the remaining spectrum: to ensure the imposition of spectrum caps on the two largest operators, to ensure wholesale open access at cost-orientated prices to their facilities, to ensure social obligations including a lifeline data package to all South Africans, and to ensure any cost reductions are passed through to price reductions.

These recommendations, if followed, should bring us closer to fair and affordable data packages that are accessible to all.

For more information regarding #datamustfall, click on these links below:


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