Operators will invest only if "spectrum is treated as private property" warned Macquarie Group’s Richard Majoor. Research ICT Africa said the policy would "threaten investment and innovation" and that spectrum should rather be "urgently released to operators".
Charley Lewis, a member of the ICT Policy Review Panel, called it a "far cry from what we recommended".
Network providers, who provide nearly all the network coverage, say they will not continue investing without relative freedom and security.
Vodacom’s Jannie van Zyl has said they would stop building base stations. MTN’s Mteto Nyati said they would have to "densify" at the expense of existing and expanded services. Cell C’s Jose dos Santos said consumers would be denied devices, products and services when launched globally.
Everyone will feel the impact, especially fixed line, fibre and mobile network operators, and tower providers. Even landlords hosting antennae will suffer. One of the worst proposals in effect turns profitable investment into nationalised assets, thereby undermining innovation, competition and investment. One of the few countries with a monopolised "wireless open access network", Rwanda, has one of the world’s worst mobile environments (30% coverage, 25,000 long-term evolution (LTE) customers and LTE wholesale prices exceeding 3G retail prices).
Recommendations made by the experts have been replaced by ill-considered policies including a mobile network monopoly, a state managed fund and the recall of all licences. It would be an investment deterrent.
We will be landed with yet another disastrous state-sponsored monopoly.
• Louw is executive director of the Free Market Foundation.
This article was first published in Business Day on 26 October 2016