Vodacom, MTN and Cell C should give free data to poor households

13 February 2020 - 21:41
By qaanitah hunter
President Cyril Ramaphosa says poor households should receive free data.
Image: iStock President Cyril Ramaphosa says poor households should receive free data.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday mobile operators like MTN, Vodacom and Cell C will soon have to give free data, discounts and airtime to poor households.

The president made the announcement  in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening.

In line with these new regulations being worked on by the competition authorities, mobile operators will have to allow free access to educational and other public interest websites.

He said a market inquiry into data services was the basis for measures to reduce costs to consumers.

South Africans have long complained about the high price of data and airtime in the country.

In December last year, the Competition Commission recommended that service providers reduce the price of data or face prosecution.

Ramaphosa said the reduction to the cost of data was an important step “to improve lives, bring people into the digital economy and stimulate online businesses”.

Listen to the pertinent points: 

 “The competition authorities are now working towards a resolution with the large mobile operators to secure deep cuts to data prices across pre-paid monthly bundles, additional discounts targeted at low income households, a free daily allocation of data and free access to educational and other public interest websites,” Ramaphosa said. 

He said digital economy would become a driver of growth and a creator of employment.

But for this to succeed, Ramaphosa said there must be the availability of high demand spectrum to expand broadband access and reliability.

“The regulator, ICASA, has undertaken to conclude the licensing of high demand spectrum for industry via auction before the end of 2020,” Ramaphosa said.