‘Big Six’ form new industry body in South Africa | Partnerships & Alliances

A new industry body for South Africa’s telecommunications sector – the Association of Communication and Technology (ACT) – was launched on Thursday.

Created by the “big six” network and infrastructure providers Cell C, Liquid, MTN, Rain, Telkom and Vodacom, the ACT will be led by chief executive Nomvuyiso Batyi and chaired by Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub.

According to local reports, the ACT was officially unveiled at an industry event at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, where Batyi and South African Communications and Digital Technology Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni appeared as speakers.

Bayti was an adviser to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) for over eight years between 2008 and 2017. She was also a special adviser to former Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Increased powers?

Clearly, the mission of the ACT will be to guide the development of policies and regulations for the sector, as well as to protect infrastructure and future investments. It also aims to help network operators reduce fragmentation and deliver common and consistent messages to governments and regulators.

Although specifics were not spelled out, the founding members hope to gain greater influence on key issues and avoid a repeat of recent industry sagas.

  • Arguably the most infamous of these was the 5G auction in South Africa, which finally concluded in March after being suspended for the better part of a decade (Vodafone watch#199 and passive).
  • MTN has been linked with a $1.3 billion takeover of rival Telkom for most of the year. However, regulators would need to be appeased for any deal to go through, with particular objections over the potential for an effective duopoly to be created between the resulting operator and leader Vodacom.
  • Vodacom also cited “regulatory complexities” in 2016 when it withdrew its bid to acquire Neotel.

During the event, Batyi, quoted by Business Insider South Africasaid that the country’s telecommunications sector is “left behind» and that the industry must therefore play a «proactive rolein future developments. “We realized that we did not have an effective and reactive policy, in particular legislative, since 2005Batyi reportedly said.

Local reports have claimed that the ACT will conduct economic and socio-scientific research to enable it to protect and promote consumer rights.

In a keynote speech, Ntshavheni said the ACT will promote inclusiveness in the digital economy. “In the next five to ten years, we should be a trillion [rand] industry, if not more. [In that time]between 30% and 50% of the economy will be digitalsaid Ntshavheni.

This equates to around £50 billion (€59 billion).

The exact origins of ACT are unclear. In a series of post-launch tweets, Ntshavheni said the body was “established in 2021 when a resolution was reached by telecom operators Cell C, Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Liquid”. The ACT did not immediately respond when contacted by TelcoTitansso it remains to be seen if this statement refers to an earlier soft launch.