Vodacom and MTN must make non-profit content free

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has released new regulations regarding mobile network operators zero-rating content from public benefit organisations (PBOs).

Icasa’s new regulations include the process PBOs must follow to apply for zero rating.

All mobile operators who bought radio frequency spectrum at the auction held in March 2022 must zero-rate qualifying content.

Radio frequency spectrum refers to mobile networks’ raw wireless capacity that connects their towers and cellular phones.

The auction took place in March 2022, and the successful bidders were Telkom, Liquid Telecom, Cell C, Rain, MTN, and Vodacom.

Just under R14.5 billion was collected from the auction, which went to the national fiscus.

Icasa reported that the main auction stage, which ran from 10 to 17 March, comprised 58 bidding rounds.

Vodacom and MTN each spent just over R5 billion, acquiring 110MHz and 100MHz, respectively.

Icasa has now announced that the successful bidders will be obligated to allow PBOs to provide zero-rated content on their newly acquired frequency spectrums.

PBOs include non-profit organisations, trusts, and government departments with .gov.za domain names.

These PBOs will be required to apply to Icasa to assess whether they meet the requirements for having their content zero-rated.

Once approved, the PBO’s content must be zero-rated within 14 business days.

The successful bidders will have 36 months to fulfil the zero-rating obligation, starting 15 January 2024.

However, the zero-rated content will have restrictions, such as not exceeding 480p (standard definition) quality.

Any content embedded in a site or hosted outside of South Africa will also not be zero-rated.

To ensure fair usage, users will be limited to 300MB daily and 2GB per month of zero-rated content per network provider.

Licensees are required to monitor for abuse themselves and report any to Icasa.

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