Thursday, February 15, 2007


Rogue wireless Internet Service Providers (ISPs) providing Internet access to consumers in contravention of the Telecommunications Act put extreme pressure on South Africa’s scarce radio spectrum.

“Ultimately, people must decide whether they want to be customers of the Enrons and Masterbonds of the Internet industry,” said Thami Mtshali, CEO of iBurst. Only certain operators such as iBurst are licensed to build their own public communications networks.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has already warned illegal wireless ISPs that some contraventions of the Telecommunications Act are criminal offences and that it has decided to establish a “working relationship” with the South African Police Services (SAPS).

“We hope that consumers will not be seduced by unrealistic promises and remember that doing business with potential criminals will harm South Africa’s war on crime,” said Mr Mtshali.

Degradation of the available radio spectrum in a certain area will inevitably result from the operations of illegal wireless operators reselling unreliable, saturated and high latency ADSL lines.

Already, rising demand from licensed mobile and fixed-line operators, broadcasters, ISPs and others is causing ICASA to reevaluate the procedures and criteria for awarding the precious national resource that is radio spectrum.

Illegal operators using the public 2.4 GHz frequency band for commercial purposes not only degrade the spectrum they deny ICASA revenue in the form of license fees which could be used to provide the regulator with the resources it is currently lacking.

Consumers who didn’t carefully choose wireless ISPs with solid track records now face disconnection as ICASA cracks down on illegal operators. ICASA’s view is that all wireless operators outside of wireless hotspots in specific areas and limited in size are illegal.

License conditions stipulate certain minimum service standards and make operators liable for contraventions. Consumers are therefore at risk of paying unlicensed operators for a sub-standard service. ICASA has taken a hard line with non-compliant wireless ISPs by either shutting down their operations or confiscating equipment.

Consumers unsure of whether or not a certain ISP is operating legally should call ICASA’s Licensing, Enforcement and Numbering (LENA) Department on 011 321 8200.

No comments: