Nicholas Nhundu and Farisai Chin’anga

South Africa has high data prices compared to other countries globally. The parliamentary portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services conducted a two day hearing in September (2016) to investigate the high data prices in South Africa. In these hearings the South African mobile network operators (MNOs) submitted that the primary reason for high data costs was the “spectrum crunch” in large urban areas. Spectrum crunch is the lack of sufficient wireless frequency spectrum needed to support a growing number of consumer devices which include cell phones, radios and televisions. Reallocation of spectrum is largely determined by government regulation, and limited access to additional spectrum compels the MNOs to spend more on physical network infrastructure which is more costly, thereby increasing the price of data.

A recent study conducted by the research organisation, Tariffic, established that South Africa’s contract data prices, for example, are 134% higher than the average of the lowest contract data prices in Kenya, Australia and BRICS member countries Brazil, Russia, India and China. However, the analysis focuses more on the price of data without taking into consideration other factors such as the cost structures of MNOs.