Callers to switch between networks

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

South African cellphone users will soon switch between networks without giving up their contracts depending on new telecommunications regulations.

This could soon be a reality following Independent Communications Authority of South Africa hearings, scheduled for later this month.

Between February 18 and 19 Icasa will be taking comments and submissions from the industry regarding a set of regulations called Carrier Pre-Select Regulations.

This little-known piece of regulatory code will introduce a service to South Africa that has already taken hold in more competitive markets around the developed world.

It will allow a subscriber on any network to be able to switch from one operator to another on a temporary basis for short periods of time without cancelling the original subscription.

Consumers could start paying an estimated 10percent less on phone charges if Icasa allowed new entrants better access to existing networks at reasonable cost.

However, John Holdsworth, chief executive of ECN Telecoms, said the proposed regulations would be of no benefit for prepaid mobile users and only limited benefit to contract mobile users.

Holdsworth said: "Icasa has decided to remove mobile from automatic preselect. We're saying that to get them to type a prefix is problematic, because most people select numbers from a phone book.

Sekgoela Sekgoela, Icasa spokesman, said: "For starters CPS will cover fixed line phones, but it may affect mobile phones later on as switches are reconfigured and technical specifications are figured out."