In a decision that may change the shape of South African telecommunications, a High Court ruling was made on 29 August 2008 by Justice Norman Davis that Value Added Network Service licence holders, which include all Internet Service Providers, must be allowed by the regulator to provide their own network infrastructure. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK assesses the implications.
Today may have seen the beginning of the end of the dreaded monster lurking in the tangled forests of South African telecommunications law. When Judge Norman Davis ruled in the High Court this morning that Value Added Network Services (VANS) must be allowed to provide their own networks – and that the regulator is obliged to grant the appropriate license to any network that chooses to do so – he heralded the beginning of a truly competitive environment in telecommunications.
The court case was brought by Altech Autopage against the telecoms regulator, ICASA, essentially to force ICASA to issue a new category of telecoms licences to anyone who applied, rather than cherry-picking a select handful that ICASA decided were worthy.
The Electronic Communications Act envisages that these ECNS (Electronic Communications Network Services) or I-ECNS (Individual ECNS) licences would eventually allow their holders to provide any communications service, from Internet to phone to broadcasting, as the technology underpinning these services is all moving to a common platform, namely the Internet Protocol). Little wonder everyone would like a slice of that pie.
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