Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri has signed into law the value-added network service (VANS) licence fee application process, but the industry is waiting to see what terms and obligations will be attached by the regulator.

The regulations of the schedule on how applications should be made appeared in the Government Gazette dated 20 May and spells out the process that a prospective VANS provider should follow in applying for a licence.

Those who have already submitted licence applications to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) have 30 days from the date of publication to amend their applications. Applications made in terms of the previous regulations promulgated on 1 October 2003 will be deemed as meeting the new regulation conditions.

Among the stipulations are that a fee of R5 636.86 will be charged with each application, and that ICASA may review the fee from time to time, and that it will be adjusted annually on 1 April for inflation by taking into account changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Empowerment conditions stipulate that a licensee shall within 12 months have a minimum of 15% equity ownership set aside for historically disadvantaged persons and this shall increase to 30% over a total period of 24 months. This provision only applies to those VANS that have a licence fee income of more than R1 million.

There are also stipulations concerning consumer protection, making annual audited statements available to ICASA, and skills training and empowerment structures.

Dominic Cull, an associate lawyer at NicciFergusson, describes the document as “minimalist with an extremely simplified application procedure”. Hillel Shrock, Internet Solutions' director of new business, says this is the first phase of the new VANS application procedure and now ICASA must follow through on what the actual terms and conditions will be.

“The second phase is probably the most important part. There is still a lack of certainty following the liberalisation announcement over just what VANS are licensed to do,” he says. Shrock says the application stipulations seem fair.