Mobile operators call for Telkom probe in South Africa over network troubles


Mobile operators have pointed the finger at Telkom, saying the network troubles that callers have complained about over the last few weeks could stem from the utility's infrastructure.

Over the last few weeks, the three mobile operators have been given a tongue lashing over network quality, which has seen customer calls dropped, missing or delayed SMSes and poor access to the networks.

The vast number of complaints hauled the regulator into action and requested each of the operators to explain the source of the network troubles. Vodacom, MTN and Cell C held individual meetings with the regulator last week.

These meetings at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) saw the operators lambast Telkom for service quality, which they are saying is the cause of the majority of network trouble. MTN SA MD Tim Lowry says of 53.11% of all the problems on MTN's network can be traced back to Telkom's transmission.

Lowry spoke to journalists this morning at the company's media forum and included part of the presentation he made to the regulator last week. He says the company defended its network position, saying that another large factor in network quality can also be blamed on Eskom, with another 37% of problems attributed to electricity failure.

MTN says it can attribute around 7% of network quality problems to technical issues it experiences internally. “We believe that the regulator should focus on the Telkom issue,” adds Lowry.

ICASA released a statement this morning on the outcome of last week's meeting with the operators, saying it has instructed MTN, Cell C and Vodacom to find a solution to the problems as soon as possible. “Failing which, the complaints raised by consumers would be referred to the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) for adjudication and possible penalties.” The regulator says it will not take the problem sitting down. “The matter is of great concern to the authority as its mandate is to protect the interests of consumers.”

In the meantime, all the operators have agreed to make network statistics available to the general public, much like their financial reports. Lowry says these will make network degradation, or quality of service, become an integral part of competition between the operators.

ICASA says the mobile companies will be reporting in three basic categories: network performance and availability; network parameters, including reports about dropped calls and delayed text messages; and active subscriber Information.

According to Lowry, all that remains is to standardise the reporting process, so that customers can view the same standard of information from all three operators.

Telkom is assessing the accusations made and could not comment in time for publication.