South Africa: Experts Decry Call Blocking in South Africa

Cell phone tower (file photo).

Johannesburg — MANY local telecoms customers cannot always complete phone calls allegedly because of call blocking by South Africa's biggest network operators.

This is according to an executive in the telecommunications industry.

Anthony Engelbrecht, Technical Director at Huge Networks, an independent telco, some clients of South Africa's Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecoms networks were increasingly finding that calls they placed were not reaching the intended user.

"The incumbent telecoms operators seem to be pulling out all the stops to fight back against consumer choice," he said.

"On an operational level, this is leading to billing disputes where excellent and mutually-beneficial relationships have existed in the recent past."

The current issue, according to Huge Networks, harks back to a decision made by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and which is reflected in the authority's 'Call Termination Amendment Regulations 2017'.

For the first time, ICASA excluded from the scope of the country's call termination regulatory framework calls made outside of South Africa.

This decision has seen rates charged by some incumbent operators for terminating internationally-originated voice calls escalating to as high as R3,30 (US$0,19) per minute against the then regulated tariff of R0,12.

Rob Lith, an executive of Connection Telecom, said call blocking related to international call termination rate disputes involves potentially hundreds or thousands of blocked numbers impacting millions of telecoms users.

"The timing is especially bad," Lith said.

"First load shedding prevents South Africa's underperforming economy from gathering steam and now the country's big telecoms networks are thwarting economic activity by preventing people from reaching each other," Lith added.

VoIP operators are typically smaller telcos that came into being as the country's telecoms landscape was liberalised in the 1990s.

Their emergence has provided the consumer with a competitive mix of voice and data offerings that have been a persistent thorn in the side of the big operators.

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