Across Africa, there is an increasing proliferation of smartphones, which in turn is driving the consumption of internet connection services. However, most users are yet to get fiber, satellite or any other wired form of Internet Service Providers connecting them to the internet. Thus, mobile service providers (telecoms) are the only option most people have.
In South Africa, people have been complaining that the mobile data charges are exorbitantly high. In fact, South Africa comes in at 16th place out of 47 in ranking across countries in Africa in regards to countries with the highest cost of mobile data fees.
Last week, the hashtag #DataMustFall was trending in South Africa, and there were efforts in place to lobby for the government push on the telecoms to bring down those charges. The South African telecommunications authority delegated the task of investigating into the matter to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
ICASA is currently holding a public hearing on the fees charged by telecoms in SA. ICASA told the SA Parliament that despite the fact that data charges have dropped by 45% from 2010. There is still need (and room) for the prices to drop further.
Willington Ngwepe, the Chief Operations Officer of ICASA, said that the SA mobile subscribers are in need of more mobile internet connection than they are of making calls and sending SMS. This shift in consumer demand has made telecoms lose their conventional revenues, and they are now focusing on improving their mobile data offering. Although not at the expense of voice and SMS services, it is an evident fact that data is increasingly becoming lucrative.
This reality has dawned on all telecoms operating in SA, sparking a competition among them as they try to entice customers over to their networks. ICASA recognizes that this growing competition among telecoms has led to a further organic drop in mobile data. However, the price could drop further; especially when considering what consumers in other African countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt are paying. South African are paying too high (about $5.26 per 1GB of data), while Tanzanians are paying the cheapest in Africa at $0.89 per 1GB.