Reinforcing a healthy, competitive ICT sector is a key component of South Africa's policy framework. The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is tasked with encouraging digital inclusion and economic growth, which includes interventions to foster competition in the ICT sector. To advance this principle, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is required to address competition issues in the ICT sector by conducting inquiries and prescribing appropriate regulations. Such regulations must:
- define relevant markets and market segments; and
- impose appropriate and sufficient pro-competitive licence conditions on licensees if there is ineffective competition in a particular market or market segment.
Competition in signal distribution services is on ICASA's agenda. It recently published its notice of intention to conduct an inquiry into these services in South Africa, together with an accompanying questionnaire. The purpose of the inquiry is to enable ICASA to determine whether there are markets or market segments within the signal distribution service value chain.
Broadcasting signal distribution is a process which occurs by electronic communication, which results in the output signal of a broadcasting service being taken from its point of origin to a broadcast target area. A broadcasting signal distribution service may be classified as a multi-channel distribution service if the service is for more than one channel at the same time on the same signal.
ICASA is required (under the Electronic Communications Act, 2005) to consider various factors when determining whether there is effective competition in relation to South African signal distribution services. These factors include barriers to entry and the dynamic character and functioning of these services. ICASA may consider imposing any pro-competitive licence terms and conditions, which may include rate regulation, obligations to provide interconnection and facilities, and distribution, access, and reselling obligations.
The inquiry will involve a number of processes, the first of which is an opportunity for the public to submit questions on clarity to ICASA by 4 October 2021. Then the public will have opportunities to submit representations or responses, as the case may be, at various intervals. This will ultimately result in ICASA publishing the outcome of the inquiry 90 days after its conclusion.
Webber Wentzel's team of expert regulatory lawyers is well-place to assist you in responding to this market inquiry